Saturday, October 14, 2017

Rueda de casino - Dance your way to professional development

I posted a few months ago about what television I was watching to keep up my own Spanish proficiency. But TV is not the only way to stay connected with the language and culture that I teach every day. I also dance regularly at a local dance studio called The Salsa Center.

The Salsa Center has been a Godsend since moving to Lexington. (I'm not originally from here and only knew a few people when I moved.) Dancing has helped me get in shape, lose some weight, find Spanish speaking friends, and connect with Cuban culture. 

Spanish teachers dance your way to professional development

I didn't know when I signed up, but there are several different styles of salsa - Colombian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, West Coast, Miami, New York, Rueda de Casino. I'm now totally obsessed with Rueda de Casino which comes from Cuba.

So what is Rueda de Casino? It is Cuban style salsa danced in a group with a caller. It started in Cuba, made its way to Miami, and then exploded from there into world-wide popularity. I've danced in 3 International Rueda de Casino Flash mobs that had hundreds of groups around the globe participate. And when I was in Munich over the summer I found a studio one Saturday night where I danced in a huge rueda with about 60 other people. 

The studio I dance with is truly international. I have met and danced with people from Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, France, Germany, Turkey, Japan, China and Greece. A lot of them have become good friends. We get together to dance but also for dinner and board games. We meet up at local festivals. We even threw the best baby shower ever with dancing and karaoke for a fellow dance who was 9 months pregnant and still coming to class. 

salsa dancing spanish teacher professional development
Salsa party in town last winter

All the calls are in Spanish and a lot of them are the same no matter where you go although there are some variations. Our sombrero in Lexington is called Casate in Munich and their sombrero is a completely different pattern. But patterns like setenta and setenta y uno seem to be universal. There is even a pattern called Kentucky! 

What I love about rueda is that it forms community. You have to work together with your partner and the other people in the rueda in order for it to run smoothly. I taught two short lessons on what Rueda de Casino is and how to use in your classroom this summer during the Kentucky Center for Performing Arts Academy on Integrating the Arts and World Languages (more on that later...) and within 15 minutes of dancing we were all laughing, smiling, and having fun. I even had two teachers who had never met before that day hugging each other.

Then we compared and contrasted that dance and music with our own culture in Eastern Kentucky with artist Carla Gover. She talked about play party games, square dancing, clogging, and even played banjo for us. I grew up in Ohio but my dad's side of the family comes from Appalachia so it was really awesome to see how to connect my own and students' culture with the target culture.

So that's one way I keep up with my Spanish and connect with Latin American culture here in Central Kentucky. What do you do to interact and connect with culture? If you're a non-native speaker like me how and where do you practice your Spanish? Leave a comment below!

And more to come on how I have and hope to continue to incorporate dance into my classroom...stay tuned!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fundraising in the FLES classroom!

Last year I was visiting a PLC in northern Kentucky and noticed a poster on the host teacher's wall that said "Let's buy a llama!" I was instantly intrigued and asked about it. She told me that as part of her reward system in class the students could "earn" quarters that would go towards buying a part of a llama from Heifer International. 

One of my ongoing goals is to incorporate the big C of community into my classroom. I want my students to know that being able to speak Spanish is a tool they can use in the classroom, their school and the wider world. Letting students fund raise for an animal that they liked best seemed like a great way to bring the outside world into our classroom. 

Heifer International fund raising project for Spanish class
I took the pictures from the Heifer International site

At the time we were studying animals in 3rd and 4th grade and kindergarteners were learning how to say I like and I don't like so it fit very nicely with the language they were learning. I chose 4 animals based on what vocabulary my students knew and what I thought they might like the best, set up 4 cups in my room, and sent home a short note explaining that students should bring in any loose change they might have. 

Heifer International's website had a lot of resources as well. I requested a free fund raising packet that included 2 posters, buttons, and other resources. 

To kick off the fund raiser, I explained to students that every little bit counted and asked them to consider That instead of using their quarters for stickers from the sticker machine maybe they could donate them towards purchasing a farm animal for a family that didn't have as much as we did in the States. They brought in their change and told Me gusta el cerdo or Me gusta la llama as they dropped their change in the different cups.

The poor fish was the least popular. It was basically a contest between the pig and the llama from the beginning. In the end we ended up raising $90 which bought 4 parts of a llama ($20/part) and 1 part of a pig ($10/part.) Over the summer a certificate and thank you letter came from Heifer International and my students were so excited to see that even their small contribution made a difference!

The one and only wrinkle in this project was one fourth grade class whom I'm sure all converted to vegetarianism during the fundraiser when they realized the pig might win. With that in mind, I think I might do something similar again this year but with World Wildlife Fund instead of Heifer International. 

Also I ended up being the one to count all the money whereas next year I think I will have one of my classes do that job (great math tie-in!)

Do you fund raise in your classroom? What sorts of fund raisers do you do? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Worry Doll Math - Culture and Content in the FLES Classroom

This is the fourth post in my serieson how to connect STEM and Spanish. Check out the other posts in this series, Engineering CastellsExperimenting in the Target Language and La migracion de las mariposas. There's also last year's post on Los Reyes Magos and the Hour of Code.

In my effort to combine more STEM into my lesson plans last year I decided to make worry dolls with my first graders. The original plan was to do it around Halloween so we could talk about being afraid and what we were afraid of but things got pushed back and so I had to find a new connection - this time math!

Target vocabulary:

body parts
numbers 1-100

When I talked to my classroom teachers they told me after Christmas break that they were working on ones and tens and estimating.  After reading Mundo de Pepita's post about estimating worry dolls, I knew I could easily support what they were learning in the classroom.

To start out with numbers we watched videos on counting by 10s and by 1s. We looked at pictures of chicken buses from Guatemala and counted how many people we saw and listed all the different colors. We also talked about the colors of the Guatemalan flag and found it on my beach ball globe.

Then students designed their own chicken bus. I made "roads" on butcher paper with different numbers and we played a modified version of matamoscas. I called out a number and they had to drive their bus to that "stop."

Image result for chicken buses

After they were more comfortable with the numbers we moved on to worry dolls. I had bought a pack of 100 worry dolls from Amazon so I put them in a jar and students had to guess how many they thought were in there. Each day we would count to 100 using the video below. Then students would make their guesses and I would tell them higher or lower. I dragged this out for two weeks (so about 5 classes) and every day they would want to know if today was the day they could finally know how many there really were.

We also worked on body parts. And we practiced introducing ourselves and asking How are you? I read them a short story (in English but a great explanation of the story behind worry dolls.) Finally we counted all the way up to 97 - the number of worry dolls I had in my jar.

Then we made our own. Like a lot of my craftivities this served as a great interpretive listening exercise. Students had to listen to what part of the face I wanted them to do. We used popsicle sticks, googly eyes, markers, pipe cleaners, and yarn. The students wrapped their stick with yarn and I hot glued it at the bottom so it would stay put. Once they were done, they walked around the room and introduced their dolls to one another.

Before we finished the unit we took part of a class period and made activity packs for kids who were muy enfermos y están en el hospital. Each pack had supplies to make their own doll like we had with instructions and some easy Spanish phrases plus a real worry doll from our estimation jar. I later took them down to UK Children's Hospital.

It was a really fun unit and my first graders LOVED it. Do you do anything with worry dolls in your classroom? How do you incorporate math? Leave a comment below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Classroom decorations - Update

So it was back to school this past week for me (although I don't actually start taking classes until next week.) This year I have everyone in my own room for 25 minutes every other day. And no morning duty. Basically it's going to be the best year ever!

Every year I'm in my room I get smarter about how to organize things and post information for students to use. Here's what my room used to look like. This year the big add was new question word posters, maps with country information (because my kiddos said they wanted to know more about Spanish speaking countries in their end of the year surveys) and pictures to show them what things should look like when everything is put away.

View from the door. Everything is posted low so students can easily reference things sitting on the floor.
The orange squares are our Kagan Cooperative Learning mats. I use them even on the carpet! My only pet peeve is they pick them up and bend them but I went ahead and made extras this year so I can replace them easily. Get your own Spanish versions in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here!

You can't see them but I also have Mundo de Pepita's direction cards laminated and with magnets on the board so I can quickly and easily give directions in the target language. Get them here!

I also have six tables that kids can sit at to work as well as four tables from Ikea that can be used as one large coffee table or sometimes the kids like to pull them apart and have 4 small tables. It helps keep game pieces from getting mixed together.

My desk area, map bulletin board, and whiteboard easel. I have my own posters to remind me of the 11 national standards and for our district curriculum. 

My students sit facing me and my white board easel during whole group instruction and then turn to face the SMART board when we're watching a video. I'm excited about the new map being front and center so I can easily show students where different places are. It used to be in the back of the room higher up and was hard to use.

Spanish question word posters

I had to update my question word posters since my others were faded. I love having them up front and center because as soon as I moved them the students started asking me questions. It felt like magic! I like these mini posters because they have photos instead of clip art.  I want my students to see the world for what it really is not just a bunch of cutesy clip art. What's more inspiring - a photo of Machu Picchu or clip art? A woman selling in a market or a clip art of a stick figure? Get your own set here!

Si se puede binder with proficiency posters so students know where they're at and where they're going!
I love our Si Se Puede area where kids keep track of their proficiency through bubbles. Check out  post on that here. We have our culturally relevant poster with Chichen Itza and posters from World Language Classroom that explain what you can do at each sublevel and what you're working on. The big ACTFL poster is great for heritage speakers who are beyond a novice level and for me to explain that I'm also still learning Spanish and showing kids where I'm at. Get your own Chichen Itza proficiency poster here. 

Students turn in their work to the basket (never ever ever on my desk) and then they can pick off the Fast Finisher menu. I just turn around an option if it's not on the menu for the day. This year I added a photo of what the shelf should look like with everything put away with the phrase "Guarda cada cosa en su lugar."

I also added a box with a few stuffies that students can chat with in Spanish and I took away a Candy Land game (that they always fought over who got to play and forgot to speak Spanish while playing) and added instead some doctor toys and pretend patient intake forms. I prefer more pretend play anyway and I hope it will encourage them to speak more Spanish...fingers crossed. If it works (and after we play it in class) I'll add a café menu and play food.

High five hands self assessment

My kiddos do a self-assessment on the way out the door by high fiving a hand that matches how they felt about class that day. I am considering taking down all but 2 just because I feel like I'm always teaching and reteaching them not to high five ALL five at once. 

I've never had a student work area before although I have put things out in the hallway but I'm excited to put up work here this year surrounded by masterpieces. The clothespins are hot glued to the wall! 

I also added a picture of what the supply buckets should look like put away AND I added colored paper to show exactly where. Is this super OCD? Possibly but I had to write Elsa on my hand last year to remind myself to "let it go" when my room was a mess after getting out supplies. If this helps kids to put things away in the correct place even a few more times than last year then I will be happy.

anchor chart storage
Computer area
I got pinterest-y this year and hung my anchor charts using curtain rods, command hooks, and binder rings. I can leave them up there or grab them and hang them on the back of my whiteboard easel for easy reference during class.

map bulletin board country spotlight

Our fifth grade teachers have complained that their students don't know their map skills as well as they should so I'm doing my part this year by emphasizing that. We'll be doing continents in kindergarten and 1st grade and country spotlights in the older grades. I used Fun for Spanish Teachers' amazing country posters and flag coloring pages from Teachers Pay Teachers. Get them here! 

I put them on a binder ring and put fast facts like capital, currency, and famous landmarks underneath them. Each month I'll flip to a new country. This is the wall right where students line up so it will give them something interesting to look at while they wait to be picked up.

So that's the room for this year! Do you have a room or a cart? How do you organize supplies? Display posters etc? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Engineering Castells - Culture & STEM in the FLES classroom

This is the third post in my series on how to connect STEM and Spanish. Check out the other posts in this series Experimenting in the Target Language and La migracion de las mariposas.

We've played with blocks before in kindergarten and it was fun but I hadn't realized that it was kind of a STEM project in disguise. So with a little more intention and an injection of some Spanish culture I made it into a mini unit for that crazy time at the end of the year where you may or may not have class and when you do the students are antsy for summer break. Plus it was a great review of vocabulary we had learned earlier in the year.

Target vocabulary:

I like/I don't like
Oh no!
numbers 1-10

We started by first looking at some photos and watching a video of castells in Barcelona and Tarragona. I first learned about these human tower teams and the exhibitions and competitions they have while traveling in Spain in 2015. I was instantly captivated and I ended up buying stacking toys that look like the castellers that my students love playing with as a fast finisher.

The top of the towers are usually young kids - just about the age of my students.

Why yes that kid IS dressed like Michael Jackson. I don't remember the reason why.

Check out the Tarragona Tourism site for more beautiful photos. 

We also watched videos of the castellers in action. The students cracked me up with their commentary - I heard a lot of ¡No me gusta! as they watched the castell get higher and higher. Afterwards, we looked at where Spain was on the map. We also discussed whether the castell was tall or short, big or small, and if the castellers moved slow or fast. We counted how many levels they had and I asked them if they would be scared to go to the top or not.

After discussing the castells we got out the blocks and made towers of our own. I challenged them to build their towers at least 10 cubes high. What strikes me is that while they usually start out just one cube on top of another they quickly transition to making it with a wider base at the bottom. I heard lots of ¡Ay carambas! and ¡No me gusta! as their towers fell. And they counted as they went higher and higher.

In the next two classes we reviewed what and where castells are and then we worked with a partner to build a tower together. One partner looked at a tower I had built behind a screen and relayed what they saw to their partner back at the table. Like before this task was a little confusing and some of them forgot to use their Spanish in their excitement but by the second class most of them had the hang of it.

The last two classes we took what we knew about how to build the best towers and how to communicate with our friends and applied it. First the students made a plan on paper. Then they took their 2D representation and with a partner they took turns building a 3D version of their designs. It was pretty hilarious when they realized they got to build what they had drawn before. Needless to say they were pretty excited.

All in all it was a great mini-unit to end the year on. Do you use STEM activities in your classroom? Have you seen the crazy castells in Catalonia? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

La migración de las mariposas

This is the second post in my ongoing series of connecting STEM with Spanish class. Check out the first post Experimenting in the Target Language here.

For the last several years I have had one grade level participate in Journey North's Symbolic Migration. If you haven't checked out Journey North's amazing resources I'm telling you to open a new tab, go there now, and then come back. I'll wait here while you have a look.....
So you've seen the site? And it's amazing right? Did you see the section about the Symbolic Migration? Each class makes their own butterfly out of a file folder and each student colors their own true to life paper monarch butterfly. After assembling all the necessary pieces I send off our butterflies which then "migrate" to Mexico for the winter.

Last summer I attended the KY Center's Arts Integration Academy where me and other Spanish teachers as well as arts teachers learned how to either integrate the arts into our Spanish classrooms. I left this Academy knowing that somehow I wanted to take our symbolic migration and incorporate the Arts. So this past year I did it with 4th grade and it turned into a year long project that extended into Library and Computer classes and ended with artwork in the hallways and displayed at the local public library.

In Spanish class we looked at the Journey North maps to see if the butterflies had made it to Mexico yet. We played a matching game where they had to match pictures with sentences about migration. We colored and wrote about butterflies in our interactive notebooks. We talked about Day of the Dead and the role butterflies play in that tradition. And we got our file folder butterflies ready to migrate.

Target vocabulary:

Need to go
Need to return
Months of the year
It's cold.
It's hot.
North, south, east, west
What animal do you like?

In Library and Computer class, the students did research and filled out a graphic organizer about butterfly conservation and what we can do to help sustain and grow the butterfly population in our own community. Keeping the elements of design in mind they then created an informational poster about what they had learned in Computer class. (This is my secret tip to including more cross curricular content and stay in the target language - get other teachers to teach the English parts for you!)

Our local library down the street has a butterfly way station with butterfly friendly plants and feeders so I contacted them and asked if they would be willing to display a few of our best informational posters. We decided that in the spring when they had classes about gardening would be the best time and they did a great job creating a beautiful display!

I selected a few posters to be displayed at the public library.

In addition to creating posters to display, the students also used their interpersonal skills to create a 3-D mural on one of the hallway bulletin boards. They worked in teams to staple and glue the butterflies in place with a strict ¡No inglés! policy while they worked. This was one of their favorite activities and at least once one of our administrators walked by and was amazed at how much Spanish she heard! We placed several of our posters by the artwork and discussed what other high traffic areas could we place the remaining so more people would read them and talked about how art impacts people's beliefs.

Finally after many months of waiting the butterflies returned to Kentucky...but they weren't our butterflies. They were from all over the United States AND they also had letters and pictures from the students in Mexico. So we dragged out the atlases, I put up the state abbreviations on the board, and the students busied themselves with finding out where all of las mariposas had come from. 

Overall, this year long project was a huge success. My students were engaged and excited to not only learn about butterflies and Mexico but also about how learning Spanish can help them cooperate to solve global problems. 

Check out Fun For Spanish Teachers and Mundo de Pepita's posts on how they teach butterfly migration!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Experimenting in the Target Language - Connecting Science and Spanish

Yay for summer and finally having some time to catch up on blog posts! This post hopefully marks the start of a series on how to connect STEM and Spanish (technically, making it STEAM!)

I've worked to incorporate the Arts into my classes before but this past year I tried really hard to incorporate a little bit of STEM in Spanish class because our STEM lab teacher had to leave us. One small addition to my ¿Te gusta chocolate? unit was a quick science experiment where we tested the validity of Ricitos de Oro's story.

The learning targets for this unit were I can describe things by size, color, and temperature and I can tell you some foods I like and dislike. I usually tell the story of Ricitos de Oro, we sing the song chocolate, and then we try some authentic Mexican hot chocolate and graph whether we like it or not. More details on this post here.

But this time we tested what size mug we should drink our hot chocolate from. Turns out the smallest porridge would NOT have been perfect and the medium one cold. Since I tell this story in conjunction with the song Chocolate, Chocolate we decided to figure out what size cup we should use. 

The first class students made their prediction and in the second class we tested our hypotheses. Since we were using boiling water (boiled in my electric kettle I keep in my room for making afternoon tea) they just watched while I actually conducted the experiment (great interpretive exercise!)  They recorded their observations on their papers and we made our conclusions together as a class and individually on their papers (Hola, presentational writing!)

I love how this student made her tazas so kawaii. 

After deciding that we needed to drink our hot chocolate out of medium sized cups I made them Abuelita hot chocolate and we graphed who liked it and who didn't.

I have to say that in the past I have struggled with how to get students at the novice level to use higher order thinking but STEM activities like this one definitely makes that easier. They may not be able to express themselves as well but with some guidance we persevered. And they were also SUPER excited to test out their hypotheses, record them, and of course put what they learned into practice.

Do you incorporate STEM in your classroom? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!