Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dia de Reyes y la Hora de Código

Over Thanksgiving break I was trying to decide if I wanted to try and teach coding since Hour of Code was coming up. And then there was the decision of which holiday traditions I should try to tackle when it dawned on me that I didn't have to choose between the two but I could combine them! So right before break my students learned about Los Reyes Magos traditions in Spain and used coding to get the Kings and Santa Claus to their different destinations.

First we watched these two videos.

In the younger grades, we compared and contrasted Papa Noel with Los Reyes Magos and sorted different items like los zapatos, las calcetines navideños, Roldofo el reno, los camellos, etc.

With the older students, I used this awesome infographic made by El Mundo de Pepita and students had to agree or disagree with the following statement, "Christmas celebrations in Spain are similar to celebrations here in the United States." Using evidence from the infographic, they had to support their position. We did do this part in English but only because I find reflecting on culture difficult to do in the TL at the novice level. With the rest of the unit's instruction in Spanish, this made up of my 10%.

Once students had an idea of who Los Reyes Magos and Papa Noel were we moved on to some coding. First we practiced together in a group, learning the direction words arriba, abajo, derecha, and izquierda. Then we applied them on the Hour of Code site with Mapas Felices and Laberintos with Angry Birds. (I did skip a few levels but my students didn't seem to suffer, mostly because they have done Hour of Code before with our STEM teacher.)

Next, we combined the two concepts - coding and Los Reyes Magos - by coding on paper. They had to get Los Reyes to Bélen and Papá Noel to the house by writing the code. Then we did it "live." Students moved the shoes around on a giant grid I had taped on my floor and then they wrote the code to get one of the kings to the shoe and deliver the gift. Once they were done they read their code aloud while one of their classmates listened and followed their directions - wearing a crown and holding a present of course!

Tres Reyes esperando por el mandato "Des el regalo."

A 5th grader listening to the code his classmates wrote.

The last two days before break, when students are the craziest, I let them get on the Hour of Code site with a partner. My older students I let play any game they wanted as long as it was in Spanish - most chose Frozen or Minecraft. My younger students I let play Star Wars since it had the vocabulary we had learned and wasn't too difficult that they got frustrated. It made for a fun, relaxing, and educational way to spend the days before break.

The computer lab teacher was also doing Hour of Code right before break so I offered extra special purple bubbles (on our Si Se Puede bubble sheets purple indicates they've been using their Spanish outside of class) to anyone who changed the language to Spanish in computer lab.

When we get back from break we will review the celebrations related to Día de Reyes and if they've been very good everyone will get a small candy cane taped to the shoe they've colored on Friday, January 6th. We'll also do a fun and quick assessment using Plickers.

Overall, this unit will take about eight 25 minute class periods but could be adapted for longer classes and for most age levels. Although most of my kindergartners didn't quite grasp the coding concepts (they were the only ones who didn't code alone on the computer for this reason) it was still a good introduction for them.

If you're interested in the coding on paper worksheets you can get them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

So that's Hour of Code in Spanish class! I think I might do this every year. I can even change the Christmas tradition we study - I could see doing this with Las Posadas or Nochevieja traditions. Do you teach Hour of Code in your class? How do you teach Christmas traditions in Spain and Latin America? Share in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #earlylang!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Picasso Portraits - Integrating Art & World Languages

Right before the break, my second graders finished making and writing about Picasso inspired portraits. I got this idea from my awesome colleague, Alfonso de Torres Núñez, I know he's presented it at KWLA and at ACTFL on how to integrate Art and World Languages.

First, we started out by singing Todo Mi Cuerpo and playing Diego Dice to practice body parts. Then we looked at some Picasso portraits and talked about the colors, how the women feel in the paintings - tired, sad, happy etc -  and we labeled their body parts. I introduced the word cubismo - which they recognized from their Art class because the Art teacher had just finished teaching about Picasso in her class in English. (I wish I could say the timing was on purpose but I just got lucky!)

We practiced by doing a Roll a Picasso, although I scratched out the English and wrote in the Spanish body parts and numbers.

I also meant to read them this book - Picasso's Trousers -  (translating it to Spanish as I read)  but because of interruptions for field trips and assemblies this time of year I only managed to that in one class. Still it's a great book that has great illustrations and is easy to understand even in Spanish.

And if you need a dynamite sub plan, you could leave this book along with the Roll A Picasso for a great cultural lesson that doesn't require a sub to know any Spanish!

Then we made our own portraits. The first part was a listening exercise. I passed out pieces of white paper, crayons, and scraps of construction paper in different colors. Then I gave them directions in Spanish of how to draw their portrait.

Ok, clase - ahora vamos a dibujar la cabeza. Dibujan la cabeza. La cabeza es un círculo. Para dibujar la cabeza necesitan dibujar un círculo. 

Para los ojos necesitan un papelito. ¿Qué color quieren? Pueden usar rojo o verde o azul, no me importa el color. Ya dibujan los ojos en el estilo de Picasso. Cuando terminan con los ojos pegánlos en sus papeles. 

You get the idea. Most students understood because of the repetition but if they didn't then they could see it as I did it. This took us two classes to finish because I only have 25 minutes at a time. Then they finished coloring their portraits and cut them out. They wrote a paragraph using sentence frames on the board to describe their picture.

Of course, some students work a lot faster than others so those that got finished early could do a fast finisher. The last day when we only had a handful of stragglers I set them to work on making flip books, which I assembled and sent back with them to put in their class libraries. 

Their smiles and pleas of  "Can we take these home today?" combined with how well they did on their mini assessment make this unit a winner. ¡Gracias a Alfonso por la idea!

How do you integrate art in your World Language class? Share in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, December 10, 2016


I absolutely love going to conferences. I've been to my state conference every year since I started teaching in the States. I went to SCOLT two years ago. This year I got to go to ACTFL for the first time and it was amazing!  So many sessions! So many more elementary people - especially at the NNELL Breakfast! So many ideas  - big and small!

I know this is a little late - most people have already blogged their impressions - but I came home and turned around and went on a family vacation to Florida. And then there was the flurry of catching up the week after break because I hadn't done any planning because I was on a family vacation in Florida. But I think the extra time (and the 14 hours in the car) helped me to better process what I can use and not use from this year's conference.

Today I'm sharing a small bite - something that isn't mind blowing or completely changed my thinking toward teaching but something I was already doing but with a small twist I'd never thought of that makes big difference and that I started using right away.

On Friday afternoon I attended Implementing Content Based Instruction: A Tool For Teachers presented by Dr. Heather Hendry. She demonstrated a lesson on density by having us see if different school supplies would float or sink. At the same time we incorporated math by graphing how many floated and how many sank and how many floated. We did comparisons by talking about if the different items were more dense or less dense than the water. It was a great take on something we all teach.

But what I really loved was how she had us give our opinion before we put each item in the water. Every person had a paper that had "float" on one side and "sink" on the other side that we held up. Those of us who spoke Spanish (and were more comfortable in the TL of the lesson) shouted out our answers in addition to showing our cards. The teachers who taught other languages started by just holding up their card but by the end were also shouting out their answers.

It was fantastic - this one piece of paper gave us automatic differentiation and reinforced literacy. It helped the class stay in the target language and while the teacher could easily see what each student thought.

Kindergarteners after their Thanksgiving performance - hence all the turkeys!

And there are a million and one ways to use it. I came back to school and immediately made them for my kindergartners with Me gusta on one side and No me gusta on the other side. My third graders are using them with Estoy de acuerdo and No estoy de acuerdo. I envision using them with Quiero and Necesito with wants and needs. With same and different when doing comparisons. The list goes on and on.

Like I said, something really, really small and not even the heart of the presentation but something I loved and am using right away in lots of different ways.

How do you have student show what they're thinking in class? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

La noche de las velitas

Need a holiday craft that is culturally relevant? How about La noche de las velitas in Colombia? I got the idea for this from Fun For Spanish Teachers. December 7th is a special night in Colombia. People light candles, put out luminaries, party with friends and families, and set off fireworks. It's the start of the Christmas season. It also makes for a fun and interesting cultural lesson.

La noche de las velitas lesson (takes three 25 minute lessons):

You will need - paper bags, glue, scissors, tissue paper, crayons or markers, LED tea lights (buy some here on the cheap!), La noche de las velitas reading exercise and La noche de las velitas worksheet.

1. In the first 25 minute class have students complete the La noche de las velitas reading exercise using RallyCoach. 

2. In the second class have students start their farolitos. I had the  La noche de las velitas worksheet already in their folders so for their bellringer they had to get it out and get started. Then they glued the completed sheet to a paper bag. 

3. Once students have their worksheet glued to their bag they drew an easy shape on the front of the bag. They open the bag, punch through the middle of shape with their scissors and cut it out. With a glue stick they put a LOT of glue all around the edges of their shape on the INSIDE of the bag. Then they took a piece of tissue paper, inserted into the bag, and pressed it into place. Finally they decorated around the cut out shape with crayons.

I might have gotten bored after a few classes & started making Dr. Who themed farolitos.

4. In the third class, students got 10 minutes to finish up their farolitos. Then we passed out las velitas, turned off the lights, and sang along to Mi Burrito Sabanero and Feliz Navidad. At the end they returned my candle, but took their farolito (with the information about what La noche de las velitas is glued to the back) home to share with their families.

My helpers turning on las velitas and getting ready to pass them out.

My students really enjoyed learning about this tradition and it was a good way to redirect all that extra holiday energy into something fun and cultural. How do you teach winter celebrations in your class? Share in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Five Organization Tips for the Elementary Classroom

Have you read the bestseller The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? I did last summer and my house and my classroom have really benefited. But teachers need more organization tips than the Japanese guru Marie Kondo offers in her book. So here are my favorite tips I've implemented this year.

1. Extra glue caps - this idea came from our STEM lab teacher. You just collect the glue caps as you throw away old used glue sticks. And then when you find one that has lost its cap you don't have to crawl around on the floor looking for it. Just grab one from the basket! As some of my fourth graders said, "That's genius!"

2. I like to keep my books organized by type - board books, bilingual books, non fiction, etc. My students never used to know which bin my books went in until this year when I finally color coded them. If it has a pink sticker it goes in the bin with the pink sticker. 

3. I also color coded our interactive notebooks. Each class has a different color sticker in the corner and then each of my small groups of 4 have a number. Then I use our Kagan partner mats to assign which student in each group will collect the notebooks and put them up - that way each groups' books stay together and are easier to get out the next time. If one of them does get out of order the color and number help me figure out where it goes. With over 200 notebooks this saves a LOT of time!

4. Pencils used to be a struggle but now I keep it simple by training the students to put broken pencils in one cup and grab one from the other cup. No more "Can I sharpen my pencil?" When the needs sharpening cup gets full I either do it or get an eager helper to do it for me.

5. I get more names on papers with this little sign that reminds students to take a minute and make sure they are ready to turn in their paper. The key to this is to teach and model to the students exactly how to stop, read the sign, look at their paper, and then put their paper in the basket. But the best part is that it teaches students to be reflective and prevents (most) kids from rushing through their work.

What are your favorite organization hacks? Share in the comments below!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Setting proficiency goals

Goal setting is a powerful tool. And there's research that setting goals not only increases student motivation but can also impact achievement. One of my goals is always speaking in the target language 90% or more during class. I measure that goal by timing myself.  You know your students are getting the whole 90% target language goal when they freak out on you when you don't use the timer and the flag is flipped too long to English. But we did speak more English a few weeks ago because we were setting our proficiency goals for the year.

I blogged in the past how I've used the Chichen Itza graphic to explain proficiency to my students. I have that poster right over our Si Se Puede bubbles and they know that a yellow bubble is novice low, a green is novice mid, and blue is novice high. But I also wanted them to set their goals for the year. Since we start interactive notebooks in third grade it made sense to put them in our notebooks.

The students had already seen the Chichen Itza graphic so we quickly reviewed it and what each level looked and sounded like. In my first class, a student asked me if I was at Intermediate & beyond, which was an opportunity for me to share that I am Advanced and my goal is to get to Superior (that darned subjunctive still gets me in interpersonal conversations most of the time!) I made sure to share that with the rest of the classes.

Chichen Iza graphic - Setting proficiency goals in Spanish class.

What struck me was how many of the students saw themselves as Novice High already. I had to crush some of their dreams by explaining we needed to add more topics but they were pretty confident they could get there soon. But the best was when I asked them if they wanted to share and a new girl told the class that she Novice Low and she was working up to Novice Mid by practicing at home using the newsletter I had sent home. I melted y'all. Absolutely melted. Like I said, powerful stuff.

I also had small group conversations with my heritage speakers about what their goals should be. Most of them are intermediate in speaking and listening (with some even being advanced) but most of them, unfortunately, can't read or write well at all. It was a great opportunity for me to talk with them one on one and encourage them to do more at home too in their L1. I'll also be printing out RAZ books for them in Spanish to take home and read.

So even though we missed our daily goal of 90% target language, the quality of work and conversations we had about language learning, proficiency, and how to get there was well worth it!

Get your free copy of the goal setting sheet here!

Do you set goals in your classroom? How do you explain proficiency to students? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Note for New Teachers

The best thing anyone ever told me when I accepted my first "real" teaching job was that and I quote, "You're going to be great! It's going to be awful."

"What?" I asked.

"You're not going to have a life. You're going to be exhausted all the time. You'll feel awful but you're going to be great!"

And it's true. It was awful. And it was great.

Here are a few things I wish I knew when I started:

1. Classroom management is HARD! Like really, really hard. And you can't speak 90% target language when they won't listen to you in English. And all that stuff that professor who hadn't taught since the 1960's isn't going to work. I had a student who regularly rolled under her desk shouting how she hated Spanish class. No one had taught me how to handle that level of off-task and defiant behavior.

2. So relating to #1 - try different things. Find what works for you. And give yourself a break. Because it's going to be HARD. Really, really hard.

3. Some things you do will work great. You will feel awesome and like you have found your true calling. Like when students get you off track asking you questions in SPANISH about a picture you showed them.

4. Some things will crash and burn so hard that you will end up in the bathroom crying (or at least I did.) You will feel like you have made a huge mistake. The first time I tried centers the students tore up all of my materials and two kids got into a fist fight. That might explain why I still don't really feel comfortable doing centers...

5. Joining your professional organizations will help you get through. You won't feel like you have time but going to any professional development you can will give you ideas and help you to build a support network. I'll never forget going to a workshop at KWLA conference 1 month into teaching and having Helena Curtain tell me that 700 students once every 6 days sounded really hard and to hang in there. Her encouragement got me through that year.

6. But don't just rely on those organizations. Read blogs, watch videos, scour Pinterest, and join in Twitter chats like #langchat. I may look like a bum on my couch with my coffee but I am doing some serious research.

7. Pick one or two things to focus on this year. And next year. And the next. You can't do everything so give yourself a break - especially if you have hundreds of students you only see once a week!  My first two years I focused on classroom management and target language usage. I knew my assessments were awful and I didn't write lesson plans that weren't on a post it note but that was ok because those things could come later.

8. Keep in touch with your friends - especially your non-teaching friends. I call my best friend, Susan, every day on my way home from work. She listens while I complain about my job and her complaints about her corporate job remind me why I left and went into teaching.

9. Remember it might not feel like it now but it does get better. And as my friend said " You're going to be great! But it's going to be awful."

What would you add to the list? Are you a first year teacher - what are you struggling with? Share in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Do you send home newsletters? I didn't although I knew I should because the thought of designing one required too much energy. And energy wasn't something I had in extra supply those first few years of teaching. It wasn't until I found Nadine Jacobsen-McLean's wikispace and saw how she set up hers that I decided I did actually need a newsletter.

For over 500 kids I don't send it home every month but every other month. I include all of the following:

  • Learning targets and vocabulary that we are learning
  • Links to videos we are watching in class
  • A set of their very own at home si se puede bubbles
  • Ideas for how to practice at home 

Do many of these end up in the trash or crumpled at the bottom of a backpack? Absolutely. But lots of kids also tell me that they watched one of our videos at home. Or that they practice their Spanish with "that paper you gave me."

Last year I just sent them home and didn't mention them to students. That was a mistake. This year I included it as part of our beginning of the year "orientation" where we go over rules, procedures, and proficiency levels in English. I explained what it was and how to use it.

Not surprisingly, I've had a lot more kids tell me they actually use it this year. I've only sent out one but I will remind them each time they get a new one to a) look for it from their teachers and b) to put it on their fridge or somewhere else so they can remember to practice.

And in case you're like me and the thought of making your own newsletter sounds like too much right now, I've made editable versions. Just download, input your information, and print. Click on the picture below!

Do you send home newsletters? What do you include? How have you gotten your students to actually use them at home? Share in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More authentic & varied listening

For the last 4 years I've had the privilege of attending the Kentucky World Language Association's yearly conference. The last 3 years I've presented. The last 2 years I've been a board member and helped out. And this year I was honored to present twice, work Thursday registration, and receive an award on Sunday!

What I love about this conference - other than getting to hang out and network with mi gente- are the great ideas and things to think on that I come away with. The most salient bit of knowledge I came away with this from weekend was from a session on managing data from the STAMP test.

Now I don't even administer the STAMP test (although my district is thinking about it for the future) and I know very little about it. I happened to walk into this session late and didn't realize what it was about. I probably wouldn't have even gone if I had known it was about STAMP.

But the presenter, Randy Barrett, shared that nationally students perform the lowest on the listening portion. They score higher on the writing and even speaking than they do on listening. So why so low on input? I would have thought that output would have lower scores.

He had the answer - It's because our students are only listening to us. Even native speakers use teacher talk with them. And us non-native speaker are putting them at an even worse advantage. So when students get to that part of the test and it's not their teacher talking...well they don't do so well.

So what's the solution? Students need lots of opportunities for varied and authentic listening.

What does that look like at the elementary school level? I'm still figuring that out. But I do think of all the stories and books that we read and if there isn't a way that I can't find someone else reading them on youtube. Or recording my Spanish speaking friends. We also watch a lot of different cartoons and songs aimed at young learners. There's also Spanish Proficiency Exercises from the University of Texas at Austin.  And also  If you know of any other resources please share in the comments below!!!

So how's that for a nugget to chew on and try to add more of to all of my lessons from a session I probably shouldn't have even gone to! This is why conferences are so great.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

School Supplies Go Fish

Ok guys, it's happened - I have finally dipped my toe into the Teachers Pay Teachers pond! I'll still be sharing ideas of things that work in class and free ways to do those things but if there is something I've made to use with my students and it works well then I'll be linking to those items on TpT as well.

My first product is related to school supplies - perfect for this time of year since most of teach/review this vocabulary so that we can give directions the rest of the year in the target language. Last year, I had great success with playing Go Fish with school supplies. What they played wasn't really Go Fish, but  a modified version because I wanted to emphasize specific vocabulary.

Included are 2 sets of cards, phrases for pocket chart to help scaffold, & directions for 3 games

In this version, students got 5 cards with different school supply items on them (papel, mochila, lápiz, creyones, pegamento, y tijeras).  They were looking for pairs like in the regular game. They asked other students for those items in the target language. I set up 2 levels of asking. They could ask "______, por favor." Or they could say "Necesito ______, por favor."

Either way, if they forgot to say por favor they could be told "No por favor, no turno."    I put the sentences up on the board so students could reference them with a smiley face by the first, easier way of asking and a star (for superstar level) next to the longer sentence. Each card had Necesito _____. on it as well.

If the person they asked had the card they completed the conversation with "Gracias" and "De nada"  If the person didn't have the card they said "Lo siento" and the student drew from the "agua" in the middle of the group.

Half of the class played the game while the other half of the class had flashcards, a metal cookie sheet and magnetic letters. They practiced spelling out the words and matching the pictures. Then the next class we switched. Each student got to play twice Go Fish and with the magnetic letters/flashcards.

My second graders loved both activities and I ended our mini-unit with a cut&paste activity as a formative assessment (get the freebie by clicking the picture above!) Overall, the students loved it and I was pleased that they knew not only the school supply vocabulary but could express what they needed politely.

How do you teach school supplies?  Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

5 Things I'd Love My Classroom Teachers To Know

School started last week but they had me on the transportation team making sure all of our precious kiddos got home the right way the first few days. Tomorrow I'll start teaching and I was thinking of what I'd love for my colleagues to know about Spanish class.

Dear Classroom Teachers:

I love love love when you try and speak Spanish. Any Spanish - what you remember from two years of high school twenty years ago bad accent, poor grammar, and all. It shows the students that languages are for everyone and it's okay to try and fail. My music teacher ALWAYS tries to use Spanish throughout the year (despite one time accidentally swearing at a third grade class) and makes sure that the students tell me that she's trying very hard. It's super cute and they're always eager to tell me.  It also communicates that Spanish is what we do at our school in AND out of Spanish class*.

I love when you get your class to me on time, all of your students there, and hand me the classroom clipboard with a hello. It shows a turnover of authority and I don't get out of my room much so it's nice to see a friendly face.  I also love when you introduce any new students personally.

I love when you tell me what you're doing in your classroom and how I might incorporate it into Spanish class. I mostly collaborate with the other Special Area teachers but I'd love to do more with my classroom teachers.

I love when you ask the kids what they are learning in Spanish. Or even better when you have them practice in your class. I have a fifth grade teacher who had students using por favor and gracias in her room and a kindergarten assistant who routinely has the kids sing the latest Spanish song while waiting for the bus or lining up for recess.

I love when you tell me what you like (how the new schedule gives you time to pee, how you think the kids are improving faster, how sad your class is when Spanish is cancelled.) But I love it even more when you tell these things to the decision makers at the school.

All the best,

The Spanish Teacher & her trusty cart Sra. Speedy

What would you want your classroom teachers to know about your elementary World Language program? Share in the comments below!

*I try to reciprocate and use music terms in Spanish class when we sing songs like Cabeza, Brazos, Piernas, Pies 100 times - (ahora piano, esta vez forte, etc.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It's time to advocate!

School is just around the corner and in addition to lesson planning, organizing our classrooms, figuring out seating charts, and dreading adjusting our sleep schedule it's also time to ADVOCATE!

Advocacy has always been on the top of my to-do list thanks to biting my nails each spring wondering if my program will get funded for another year. However, the time to start convincing people that Spanish should stick around is NOT right before they make that decision but throughout the entire year, starting before even the first day of school.

Before school starts...

Our PTA sponsors an ice cream social every year a week or two before school starts so that the kids can meet their teachers, hang out with their friends, and have a cold treat. It's usually at a local park so it's very low-key and informal. But it's also a great time to introduce myself to parents and answer any questions they might have about the Spanish program. It's also a great opportunity to have my kiddos show off what they remember. Nothing is better for your program than your students actually speaking the language!

Back to School Night is another chance to meet parents and families. Our students can bring drop off their school supplies, meet the teacher, have their parents fill out the mountain of required forms, and check to see if their desk is near their friends'. Unlike at the ice cream social I'll be prepared with an infographic with Frequently Asked Questions about the Spanish program and why early language learning is important. I'll also have Spanish Club forms ready so kids can sign up early if they're interested.


And once school starts...

-Greeting students and parents in Spanish on the first day (and every day after that!)

-Sending home newsletters with what we're learning and cultural events in the community.

-School-wide art projects in the front hallway showing off what we're learning in Spanish to anyone who comes in the front door.

-Organizing Family Nights such as Culture Fair or Hispanic Heritage Night.

-Forcing Encouraging students I meet in the grocery store to speak Spanish in front of their parents.

-Making community connections (like having local dance instructors come in and teach salsa.)

-By planning and delivering engaging lessons that make my students excited to learn.

-Never give up and never stop talking about your program and your students.

Also check out my post The Cart as Advocacy.

How do you advocate for your program? Share your ideas below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reflections on this past year

I've been out of school for a couple of weeks now and I've been reflecting on how it went, what to keep, what to change, and what just needs a few tweaks.  Here are a few of my thoughts...

 - My schedule change WAS amazing. To go from a 6 day rotation to every other day made a huge difference. Everything got better - behavior, my routines, target language usage by me & the students, what the students could do in Spanish, the assessments I could get done, etc, etc.  I had to pinch myself throughout the year to make sure it was real. The best part is that I get to keep this schedule next year. Yay for awesome administrators!!!

- Classroom management is always a top priority for me. I refine my practice in this regard a little more each year. This year I started doing bell ringers and I loved how it became routine and gave me a moment to breathe as one class left and another was coming in. They started with me writing them on the board (way too hard to keep up with) to having them in a Word document (couldn't quite fit them on the screen) to finally having a "Duh!" moment and putting them in Powerpoint. With Powerpoint I could get the date, the bell ringer, and the learning targets for the day in one slide and then just hit next when a new grade level came in. Sometimes it's small changes that make the biggest difference!

- Tracking student participation and growth using the Si, se puede bubbles was a BIG win! I will definitely keep this system for next year although I'm already brainstorming ways I might modify it. I had a lot of students get bubbles for the same learning targets over and over this year so I'd like to somehow figure out they can get those, show growth, and then move on to the next targets.

- My monthly contest where students earned tickets for using certain phrases worked really well. The kids remembered and used them throughout the year and by the end I didn't even have to hand out the tickets. My only concern is that this incentive and the Si se puede bubbles rewards extroverted students over shyer students.  I'm not sure what I can do to make sure that I'm reaching these students as well. Something to ponder over the summer....

- My biggest concern for next year is that we're in the middle of redistricting which means instead of a few new students who have never had Spanish or another World Language before but a LOT of new students. I'm hoping to continue on in my curriculum and just try to pull these kids into the fold with some extra differentiation but I might need to see how that goes and be flexible. I don't want a bunch of frustrated students. I also need to plan more get to know you activities in the beginning to build those relationships as well as make sure I hit the rules and routines EXTRA hard since I'll have more students who won't be familiar with them or me.

So those are my thoughts as I plan for next year. How was your 2015-16 school year? What changes will you be making for the upcoming year? What worked really well for you this past year? Share in the comments below!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Lost Pets

My third graders are talking about pets this chapter.  With most units of study, I like for my students to engage with the language with some sort of authentic resource as well as have them "do" something with the language rather than just memorize words in isolation.  Inspired by an idea I saw on Twitter, I decided to have them not only talk about their pets but write Lost Pet posters.

Target Structures:

¿Cómo se llama?
Mi perro/gato/pez se llama _____.
Es grande/mediano/pequeño.
Es negro/café/blanco/gris. 
(Body part) es _____.
Numbers 1-10

The only truly new things in the target structures is ¿Cómo se llama?, Se llama ____. and the vocabulary perro and gato. Everything else we are spiraling back to. 

We first reviewed all the animals we had learned previously and then I introduced el perro by showing them pictures of my parent's Golden Retriever, Max. We also practiced describing a dog by using Clifford the Big Red Dog. Then students enthusiastically told me about their pets with the help of sentence frames on the board. 

I introduced the idea of Lost Pet posters with some authentic ones I found doing a Google Image search. I put them on the SMART board and with their partner they had to read and answer orally questions about each poster. 

After reading the posters we wrote one together as a group. Now earlier in the month I had found a small stuffed dog named Rocket outside on the sidewalk. I put it on my desk in the hopes that one of the kids would tell me it was theirs. No one came forward but several kids had come up and picked up Rocket and asked about him so it made sense that we wrote our poster about him. But first he had to go missing.

I took a picture, printed out four copies (one for each 3rd grade class) and then hid him in my desk.  I told the students that, "Estoy triste. No sé dónde está Rocket. Necesito escribir un poster para Rocket." So that's what we did.

The students supplied the sentences-I just cleaned them up & wrote them down.

When they asked if he was REALLY missing I told them yes. Although they're old enough that several have accused me of hiding him, I just wink and sadly say "Estoy triste. No sé dónde está Rocket."  (I did add in English that if they did find him they shouldn't move him - he might bite. And that he wouldn't go anywhere they weren't allowed to be or hide under anything they should touch.) Students who can tell me where he is hiding (in the computer lab) will get the recompensa - Chocolate!  The best part is that even though this is a 3rd grade unit of study, since the posters are in the hall I've already had 4th and 5th graders ask me about Rocket and the Art teacher told me she had a kindergartner ask if she could look in her room for Ms. Kennedy's lost puppy.

During the ongoing drama of Rocket my third graders are also writing their own individual posters. They can pick any animal, though I do encourage them to stick with ones we know. Some of them are writing them for pets that are really lost (one of my students lost her cat named Cal Purry - hilarious if you follow Kentucky basketball) for pets that they own now, or for pets they dream up.

Once we finish up our posters it will be nearly the end of the year so we'll wrap it up with Corre Perro Corre and if the weather is nice some Red Light Green Light outside (like we did last year.) Share how you talk about animals and pets in your classroom in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

¿Qué es esto?

Elementary kids LOVE to talk about animals and with Calico Spanish each chapter focuses on one animal. Recently we did a review of all the animals we had learned so far - fish, monkey, frog, bear, dog, butterfly, and elephant. We also added the question ¿Qué es esto?

First, we started by playing charades. I modeled and we played in a large group a few times and then they broke into pairs to play. They had to say ¿Qué es esto? before acting out anything or they lost their turn.

Next, we started giving oral clues and our partners had to guess what we were talking about. They already knew the song Vengan Ya so we sang it and again practiced in a large group using the conjugated verbs on the board. Some of the students never quite internalized the difference and still used the infinitive but as long as I could get their meaning I didn't push it too much.  Once they were comfortable I let them break off into pairs and again they guessed what animal their partner was describing.

Then we wrote out our clues and drew a picture. They covered their pictures with construction paper that said ¿Qué es esto?  After collecting their writing pieces I put them out on the tables around the room. Students did a gallery walk, reading and guessing. They wrote their guess down and then put a check if they got it right and an X if the missed it.

We finished up with me selecting a few of the best and using it as a more formal formative assessment (My summative assessments include all 3 modes of communication and I only do 1 a year per grade level because they take forever.) Just like in the gallery walk they read them and made their guess.

At the end they got to take home their writing pieces to show off to their families. Assignments like these are great for sending home and go a long way for advocating for your program since parents can see what their kids are doing in Spanish class.

My third graders are doing something similar except we are focusing on pets - dogs, cats, and fish. They are making Lost Pet posters. What do you do with animals? What are your students' favorite animals to talk about? Share in the comments below!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Global Competency Matrices - Getting kids ready for a global world

We live in a global society where learning a second language is becoming more and more important. I haven't yet seen the ACTFL's Global Readiness Standards but I do know that whatever you call it - Global Readiness, Intercultural Competencies, or Global Competency - our students need it.  The best quote I have heard so far (and by golly I can't remember who said it so I can give credit) is that, "You can learn a World Language and not be globally competent but you can't be globally competent without learning World Languages."

In Kentucky we have the Kentucky World Language Standard, which has Intercultural Competencies for each proficiency level. In these there are the 4 Ps - products, practices, perspectives, and participation. We also have the Global Competency Matrices from EdSteps that we are also supposed to be using. While the Intercultural Competencies are specifically for World Languages, the GC Matrices are for EVERY subject - Math, Science, Language Arts, Arts & Humanities, and World Language. In these students Investigate the World, Recognize Perspectives, Communicate Ideas, and Take Action.

I recently attended two trainings on the Global Competency Matrices - one designed specifically for WL teachers and another that was attended for elementary school teachers and administrators that don't teach WL. Here are my main take aways:

1. Global competency is EVERYONE's responsibility in the building - not just mine as the Spanish teacher! You can teach it in Math, in Science, in Social Studies etc. etc.

2. Think of it as Real World application. How can you apply what you learn in Math, Science, Social Studies, English, and Spanish class to the real world to make it a better place? That is essentially what Global Competency is.

3. As WL teachers we are already teaching culture, but using the Global Readiness or GC matrices we can refine our practice to make it more meaningful and an integral part of each unit of study rather than just a special class on Friday featuring "culture!"

4. When it comes to the GC Matrices, everything we do in WL class falls under Communicate Ideas, as long as we are teaching proficiency.  But it is the Take Action or Participation part that can be tricky to integrate (especially at the elementary school level.)

5. While the Take Action piece is probably the hardest, it doesn't have to be done for every unit. It can be something small but it can also be something larger and more ambitious. I'll post separately on ideas on how to incorporate this one.

The training I took was through my district but if you're interested in learning more and are in Kentucky check out KWLA's Spring PD (and if you're not in Kentucky it will be a webinar before long!)

What do you in regards to global competence, interculturality, or global readiness? Share in the comments below!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

90% TL contest is over!

And the winner of my sweetest 4th grade classes! They will be getting a piñata party before the year is up.  If you're unfamiliar with my 90% TL contest it is simple. Last year I used Class Dojo to give points to classes who stayed in the target language most of the class. They got points for me staying in the TL and separate points for them staying in the target language.

Check out my blog post introducing the idea here.

And my other blog post where I reflect on why it went long.

This year I shortened it to the month of February. Why February? Because it's my least favorite time of the year, which means it's also the time of the year I'm most tired and cranky and least likely to be trying to stay in the target language (I definitely suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.)

Was it easy? No. Is it ever easy to get your students to stay in the TL? Is it ever easy to stay in the TL yourself? No, it's not. But it's always worth it. And the students responded well. I am pretty good at staying 90% myself and I use lots of other ways to motivate students to use the target language so it wasn't anything completely brand new or shocking to them but what it did do was keep ALL of us accountable and aware of when and how we were using English in Spanish class. Especially in the middle of winter when we needed extra accountability.

What did I notice between classes? I included 2nd-5th grade, which meant 16 classes battling it out. It was definitely a competition between several classes in second, third, and fourth grade. Fifth graders after winter break suffer from senioritis so I'm not surprised they didn't fare better. The biggest thing I noticed was that the classes that have I have classroom management problems with did a lot worse and the classes where classroom management is a breeze did much better. The class that won has a teacher whose class is my favorite every year (which speaks highly of her ability to create an atmosphere of learning and support for each other year after year.)

This pattern shows me that good classroom management is a MUST in order to create a culture where students are ok with hearing and using the TL nearly 100% of the time.  I already knew which classes are a struggle but this showed me exactly why it's important for me to continue to practicing routines & finding engaging activities. Because without all the integral parts of classroom management they use the TL less!

What would I change for next year? I think the move from all year to just one month was perfect so I would not change that. But in the spirit of always improving, I think next year we can do some more reflection. I reflected after the students left but I want to lead the students in reflecting on when they use English, why, and what they can do to stay in the target language more. I want them to take charge of their own learning.

So I probably still used less target language in February than I normally do but more than I might have because I had students keeping me and themselves accountable. All in all it was a success. How do you encourage target language usage in your classroom? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Weather Activities For Any Language

We've been working on weather in first grade. To keep it simple I stuck with only sunny, cloudy, rainy, and snowy. Here are 3 activities we used to learn not only how the weather is here in Kentucky but around the world.  I've provided links to versions in Spanish but really these activities would work in any language!

Spin and Draw:

I love a good spinner. When played with a partner it's great practice for asking and answering questions in the interpersonal mode. Use this one in a page protector, dry erase marker, paperclip and pencil. One partner asks ¿Qué tiempo hace? while the other partner spins and answers. Then they draw whatever they spun in the window.  Then erase, switch, and play again. Since we only get 15 minutes of Spanish in first grade we played this for 3 class periods.

Print, put in a page protector, and give to Ss with a dry erase marker.

My kiddos playing in pairs. One asks while the other spins, draws, and says the answer out loud.

Weather Forecasters:

I used to play this game way back when I was an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in Japan. Back then I used the whole world but since I am trying to introduce my students to the Spanish speaking world I stuck with Latin America this time around. 

The game is simple. Students work in pairs or small groups and decide what they think the weather is in different locations in the target language. Then they write their "forecast" in the square. Then the teacher looks up (or has ready in the case of my technology free Japanese classrooms) what the weather really in in that location and students can see if they are correct. My students always get excited when they're right.

To make it even less prep you can take a globe-I have a beach ball version-and pass it around. Have a student decide where they want to look and do it orally. This game is also great for discussing WHY the weather is different in different places. 

Print, put in a page protector, and give to Ss with a dry erase marker. I have this and the spinner back to back in a page protector for a 2 in 1 game. 

Weather Trackers:

I found this cute craft on pinterest and my students loved it! The version I found had a brad with an arrow but I've never had luck with brads so I bought 100 clothespins at Target for less than $4.00. Students cut out the circles, glued them to the plates, and then colored the different weather in the first 15 minutes. In the second, they finished up their drawings and then cut out the ¿Qué tiempo hace? and glued it to their clip. Then we practiced using them by playing the game above.

The best part of this craft is that it fits into the Take Action of our Global Competency matrices in Kentucky (an important part of our state Program Review!) because students took them home to teach their family weather words as well as keep track of the weather from day to day. 

What activities do you use to teach weather. Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

El Ráton Pérez craftivity

I've written about teaching el Ráton Pérez with kindergarten. It's a great way to connect kid's culture to the classroom and explore different cultural perspectives. Plus my kiddos are already telling me how loose their teeth are and how many they've lost so they might as well say it in Spanish. Read that post here! It has lots of resources!

This year we ended the unit with a cute craftivity that let the students act out and "play" Ráton Pérez at home. First students cut out two circles - one with el diente and one with la moneda. Then they glue them together so that on one side they have their tooth and the coin on the other.

Once they have their diente/moneda piece, they take a piece of construction paper and make la almohada. 

We "played" Ráton Pérez by saying, "¡Se me cayó el diente! Estoy cansada. Buenas noches."  Then we put our diente under our paper almohada and pretended to go to sleep. (Loud snoring is encouraged.) Then we "wake up," flip over our diente and discover that Ráton Pérez has left us some moneda. "¡Oh sí! ¡Moneda para mí! Gracias Ráton Pérez."

There is a little explanation in English so my families can understand exactly what their child is playing when they get home. (Just in case my kindergarteners don't explain it clearly.)  I'm still taking names for our diente poster but this was a good way to formally wrap up our unit. 

Do you teach about Ráton Pérez? What resources do you use? Do you send home items with your students? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Resources for Going to the Doctor

My third graders have spiraled back to body parts and are in the middle of our going to the doctor unit.  We've been working up to playing with my stash of doctor toys in a doctor/patient role play. Here are my top 3 resources I've used for this thematic unit.

1. Mi Burro Enfermo Está

We started out by watching and singing along to the traditional song Mi Burro Enfermo Está. I recommend Traposo because the graphics are cute and it has closed captions you can turn on so students can sing along (that are actually correct. I love to turn on captions but sometimes they can be WAY off!)

2. Jokes in the target language

We've also been learning to tell jokes in Spanish class. It's authentic, it's great presentational speaking and it's age appropriate. The cornier the better!  We've been telling the following joke to practice Me duele _____.  I project it on the SMART board and my students practice it with their face partner using the Kagan structure Rally Robin.

-Doctor, Doctor, si me toco la oreja me duele.
Si me toco la boca, me duele.
Si me toco la nariz, me duele.
Si me toco el brazo, me duele.
Si me toco la pierna, me duele.

¿Qué es el problema, doctor?
El doctor le dice:
– Pues, que tiene el dedo roto.

And we never forget to add the ba-dum-tss at the end! It is, after all, a pretty corny joke. In order to get them to read it with feeling (and to up the ante) I've told them that we will have a joke tell-off with the principal and vice-principal serving as judges.  For more jokes in Spanish check out Spanish Playground's post!

3. Doctor Role Play

I blogged last year about using Doctor dramatic play in first grade. This year I have added a receptionist who takes patients' names and asks them to sit down. Patients can read my Spanish Let's Go Scholastic magazines while they wait to be called back. I also added task cards and my mini doctors can hand out prescriptions on a prescription pad!

We've practiced all the roles and the task cards in whole group and with our partners so that I'm sure they are confident enough to use their Spanish, otherwise, they get so excited and only play in English. We discussed at the end of class how much Spanish they used and how our goal is to increase that each time we play. 

You can expand to include even more depending on the level of your students. I have students visiting radiology to get X-rays and if your students know and need to practice their alphabet in the target language an eye chart is another great authentic way to practice.

What resources do you use for going to the doctor? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!