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 heiferinternational.org 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
colors
feelings
numbers 1-100
introductions

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
tall/short
fast/slow
strong/weak
big/small
colors
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
Where?
When?
Why?
Animals
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!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

End of the year survey

It seems like most years I am rushing to finish up things but somehow this year, even with a ridiculous amount of interruptions to the Spanish class schedule, most classes were finishing up some sort of presentational writing task at the end of the year. When they finished they filled out a quick survey. 



I loved reading through their surveys. When you have 500+ students it can be hard to get to know each of them. This survey was a great way to hear their individual voices. Who knew D was so interested in mythical creatures? Or that normally reluctant student S loved when we labeled body parts on our partners with post it notes? Even just having them filling out the survey inspired some great conversations with me and with their classmates.

Third through fifth grade filled them out individually. In second grade they discussed orally in their groups and I wrote down their collective answers. I always find it interesting how they remember doing activities that I had forgotten about. And some of the things they want to learn next year such as count to 100 or write paragraphs in Spanish really surprised me. 

Super low tech way of tracking the data


Another surprise - just how good they were at in self-assessing their performance/proficiency level. Just more proof that my Chichen Itza graphic, regular reminders of what each level looks and sounds like, and Si, Se Puede bubbles is really working. They know what level they're at and they want to move up!

One question asked for advice for a new student to Spanish class and most classes came up with some great advice. Keep trying. Never give up. Pay attention to Ms. K and it will get easier. My fifth graders in a contender for rowdiest class advised new kids, "Don't get in trouble." Too bad they often didn't take their own advice! Hahaha. My favorite was, "It's hard at first but it's really fun!" 


So that was the end of the year survey. It will be interesting to see what the beginning of the year survey results are in comparison. Do you survey your students? With paper? Online? Let me know in the comments below!


And if you want a copy of my survey it's available on Teachers Pay Teachers - just click HERE!


Monday, May 1, 2017

Getting in more interpersonal mode

A few months ago I blogged about the interpersonal mode and how I needed to do more with it in my class. Well, I'm happy to report that my students have been rocking out the interpersonal mode this second half of the year because of a few easy changes I've made.


Conversation training

Sometimes I do this with inside/outside circles and sometimes I just have students find a new partner, but each time we start small and build up. In second grade that means 20 seconds up to 40 seconds of a sustained conversation in Spanish. In 4th grade and 5th grade we've gone from 30 seconds up to 2 minutes. I post ALL the questions on topics we've learned throughout the year on the board and students must ask, listen, and respond. 


Especially in the upper grades we are working on listening and responding in a way that prevents 2 presentational statements. My 4th graders have gotten especially competitive and ask how long the other classes have gone in order to beat their times. This takes only a few minutes and every other class or so is our bellringer activity.


Combining modes

Per the suggestion in the session I went to, I use an interpretive exercise in small groups to encourage interpersonal communication. For example instead of just asking students to look at a Lost Pet poster and answer comprehension questions about it (although we did do this the first few times) I asked students to come up with some questions in Spanish they might ask and then they quizzed their partners. We did the same with birthday party invitations. Students asked each other questions and used the invitation to answer.



Then we combined the interpersonal with presentational writing as students asked their friend who is too upset to write a poster questions and then create a lost pet poster for them. For the invitations students will open their own invitation business and will interview their new clients about how old they are, when their birthday is and what they like in order to create the best invitation.


Dramatic Play

As an early language teacher I love dramatic play and it's always been a part of my repertoire. I've realized that a good role play not only has students using multiple skills but it's great interpersonal practice! In kindergarten we read Por Favor Sr. Panda. Now students are buying their own donuts but like in the story they must use good manners. The role play also has them practicing greetings, colors (the donuts are all different colors) and numbers as they count out the money. In first grade we did the same but with burrito ingredients as they had to ask their partner what they liked and didn't like so they could make them a yummy burrito.   We also did the doctor role play earlier in the year. 


To make it more challenging and to reinforce math skills I changed the price of the donuts/burritos and give students limited money. Depending on how much money they get they can only buy at certain shops or sometimes they can buy more than one. I asked them to predict which store will make the most money - the store with the higher prices or the lower prices. 


So that's how I'm getting in more interpersonal. How do you teach the interpersonal mode? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

What I'm watching to keep up my Spanish

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

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





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pets, pets, pets

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

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

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


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



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



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


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Science & Art in the FLES classroom - Arpillera Habitats

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

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




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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mixing it up with proficiency levels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



¿Tienes una mascota?

Novice Low - Sí. Rocket.

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

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

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

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

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

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




Sunday, February 19, 2017

More Kagan Structures to get your students talking

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





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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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



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





Saturday, February 4, 2017

A year of growth

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

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



Observe other teachers/Let other teachers observe you

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

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


Embrace the parts of the bureaucracy that make you better

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


Get involved

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




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

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

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




Sunday, January 29, 2017

Animales Yoga

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

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


El perro - downward facing dog pose




El gato - cat pose




La rana - frog squat




El pez - corpse pose





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

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

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





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