Sunday, December 2, 2018

Using Bitmojis in the Spanish Classroom

I recently discovered the bitmoji app and I realized they had a LOT of food related ones AND that you can change them into other languages like Spanish and French. So when I went to revamp my slide presentation to introduce our My Food Choices unit in second grade I decided these silly pictures of their teacher would be a good way to capture my students' interest.



They loved it! I told them a quick story about how eating too much pizza, hamburgers, and ice cream gave me a stomachache using different bitmoji images. I needed to eat healthier. Then we practiced healthy food vocabulary with the slide above and they told their partners which healthy foods they liked and disliked.

In later classes we looked at different authentic posters. Eventually we will make our own informational posters (more on that later!) The bitmoji story was a great introduction to the unit.




How to get bitmojis in another language:

1. Change your phone to the target language.

2. Open the Bitmoji app and choose your bitmoji.

3. Save your bitmoji to your favorite photo app. I have mine uploaded to Google Photo.

4. On your desktop, open Google Photo and download the bitmoji to your computer.

5. Insert into your powerpoint, slide, or word files. Use and have fun!

6. Be prepared to have students argue over whether the bitmoji is really you and just how much it looks like you. (Apparently my red glasses are not really reed according to several of my students.)





Other Ideas:

Print them on sticker paper with ¡Buen trabajo! or other encouraging phrases to put on student work or hand out as prizes for games.

Add them to worksheets for a fancier word bank, especially for food, likes/dislikes or days of the week.

Put them on newsletters and bellringer slides to start the day to add a personal touch.

Print out phrases like ¡Me gusta! or ¡Qué asco! and put on popsicle sticks and use to model conversations in class.

For older students, have them change their devices' language and have them make their own TL bitmojis.



Do you use bitmojis in your target language? Share in the comments below!


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Presentational Writing Practice in the FLES Classroom

Last year I realized that I don't do a lot of writing in my room. I teach at a Title I school and while our scores are going up, we still need our students to be writing more. Writing in Spanish is a good way to get in more of the presentational mode and I use it as a way to reinforce L1 skills like punctuation and handwriting.



But how to do it?

1. Do group writes. Especially for younger students, start out by modeling how to write. Ask students to give you the sentences and you write them. Then let them come up and write the sentences.



2.  Have students partner write - One person has the whiteboard and marker but they have to listen to their partner as they dictate. Then they revise it together. My second graders loved this last year as they wrote animal riddles during our zoo unit. And it was great scaffolding for later when they wrote on their own at the end of the unit.

3. Whiteboards during our Hola time. We have a time where we practice our interpersonal conversations. Some of these times instead of orally practicing introducing ourselves and talking about what we like, we write our answers on whiteboards.



4. Make it fun. In our My Food Choices unit in second grade we take laminated place mats and write what we like and don't like on them. It takes what would be a boring activity using a worksheet into a fun activity because they are writing on the plate. Later we do the same thing when talking about school schedules and our favorite subjects. They write on a large laminated schedule.



5. Write on the tables - My fourth graders wrote descriptions of their friends using expo markers on my tables. Each table had a different adjective. Working with a partner they took turns writing who they knew that matched that description. They had a lot of fun and it was super low prep. Before my third graders did the notebook foldable below they did the same thing. Writing with a partner the names of their family members. Each table was a different person in the family.



6. Interactive notebooks - a lot of our activities in our interactive notebooks have the students writing. This activity in third grade, had students writing about where they lived and the members of their family.



7. Use social media - my students are too young to be on social media but Instagram on paper was a big hit right before Thanksgiving break. Some even asked if they could take a picture and post it to their real Instagram (I pretended not to notice they are about 4 years too young to have their own accounts...)



8. Lengua Lunes - Outside of class, as part of our morning show, students write the answer to a question and turn it in. On Tuesdays, someone is drawn and they get their name announced on the morning news show and get a pencil from our school counselor. If you don't have a morning show like I do you could use a bulletin board with a weekly question. Or put up butcher paper and have a Spanish graffiti wall. Just be sure to show and model to students how to use it appropriately.




So that's how I get my students writing more in class. What are some activities that you do in your classes to get in the presentational mode? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Finding Balance as an overworked, underpaid World Language teacher

It's time to #highlightreal. My to-do list is out of control. My fifth grade unit is a hot hot mess but we're too far in for me to change much. Halloween just happened AND I was sick all week. I've been having stress dreams that leave me cranky. And my goal of drinking less caffeine has gone down the drain. It must be DEVOLSON (Dark Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November.) Read more about that here.

Finding and maintaining balance as a teacher can be hard to do. I'll admit sometimes my sanity-saving strategies include wine and Cheez Its but with the exception of a week or two in late October and February I have healthier strategies for self-care.


1. Let go of perfection and focus on what impacts student learning. That means my door isn't as pinterest ready as it could be but my interpersonal activities are on point. Ditto for bulletin boards. I tend to go for things that can be left up for several months.

2. Document what you do with tips for what you want to change for the next time. Last year I made a google doc for each grade level with I cans statements, assessments, links to resources, and reflection on what to change for next year. It's has saved me a TON of time this year.

3. Get students to help you. I recruit fifth graders before and after school to help me with monotonous tasks like sharpening pencils, stamping papers, stapling paper books, etc. Having student teachers  has been a God send in that I almost never stay late now because I either make them do the copies while I'm teaching or I do them while they're teaching.

4. Plan on Thursday for the next week. It's the only day I stay late. I get all of my copies made, write my plans, and make any resources I need. I do work on the weekends but in my PJs with coffee and Law and Order on in the background. But only on Saturday mornings. I don't do the Sunday night panic.

5. Have teacher friends. I'm part of a book club that is really more teacher support group than book club...although some of us do read the books too. It's nice to have women who really get what it means to be a teacher that I can vent to.

6. Have non-teacher friends to remind you that the grass is always greener on the other side. I call my best friend Susan most days after school and listening to her talk about sales reports reminds me why I left my corporate cubicle for teaching.

7. Make time for your hobbies. I dance Cuban salsa which has the triple benefit of being exercise, a place I can practice Spanish and learn about Cuban culture, and meet new people. Dancing is an instant boost for me. I also love to read, listen to podcasts, hike, and travel.

8. Speaking of exercise...don't forget to get some. Besides dancing I also have an energetic dog who needs walking everyday. While we walk I listen to a favorite podcast (I love Happier by Gretchen Rubin and Stuff You Should Know).

9. Get enough sleep. I'm a morning person so that means I go to bed at a ridiculously early time but even if you're not a lark, make sure you're getting enough Zzzzs. I have an app that filters out blue light (which will keep you up) that automatically comes on at 7pm. And I listen to a podcast to fall as I fall asleep, which gives my mind something else to focus on rather than all the things stressing me out. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I either put my podcast back on or I have a phrase I repeat to myself that puts me right back to sleep.

10. Write everything on your to-do list, even the smallest things. I do this so I get the satisfaction of crossing things off and it reminds me off all the things I have accomplished even when I feel like nothing got done that day. Or you can keep a Ta-dah list and write everything down you've done rather than things you have to do.



What do you do to stay positive this time of year? Share in the comments below!




Saturday, October 27, 2018

Scaffolding Interpersonal Speaking in the World Language Classroom - Getting Your Students to Speak in the Target Language

I was recently reading a conversation (lurking really) on Twitter about getting students to use the target language and not sneak in English in one of those activities where they have to interview their classmates.  Soon after I did a similar activity with my fifth graders (they had a bingo sheet with different activities and they had to interview each other to find people who liked to do those things) and I realized that I had very little problems with this.

I only had a few students who tried goofing off but the majority of the students happily spoke Spanish while trying to interview their friends and get bingo and earn a sticker.





So why do they use the target language instead of reverting to English?


I scaffold the speaking practice. Students switch to English when using the target language becomes too onerous. Giving them something to reference makes them less likely to make that switch.

We practice our interpersonal conversations each class as part of our warm-up that I call Hola. This year I laminated large blank pieces of white paper and wrote the questions and sentence frames for each grade level. I throw those up on the white board during our Hola time so that if I have any new students or students who struggle they can use that as a guide. Heritage speakers and kiddos who have been in Spanish class longer don't need it as much. Because I used vis a vis markers I can add and subtract to this scaffolding as the year progresses.




Anchor charts and language ladders are another of my favorite ways to help students use more of the target language. This chart for hobbies shows students what answers look like at each level and then based on their goal for the year they can self-differentiate. I color code everything in my room by the Novice sub levels. Yellow is low, green is mid, and blue is high. They get excited when they get to blue (and so do I!)

I color code everything for the proficiency levels. Yellow-NL, Green - NM and Blue - NH


This language ladder from a few years ago helps them build up from a novice mid answer to a more novice high.

The visuals also help ME to stay 90% Target Language as well



Before we do any activity where they will be doing interpersonal speaking, I like to activate their prior knowledge by having the class generate a list of words and phrases that they could use. This gets them in a Yes I can kind of attitude and it gives students who need extra support something they can reference if they need to rather than slipping into English. If I do hear English all I have to do is point to the board. You can ask for volunteers or better yet use Rally Robin or Turn and Talk to have everyone thinking and talking before you write anything down on the board.

Student generated lists help activate prior knowledge and get them prepped for an interpersonal task

Other factors:

I give them a reason to speak in the target language. See my post on I can statements here. Stickers are an added incentive as are Si, Se Puede bubbles.

It's part of our routine. We practice EVERY class period so they are accustomed to speaking in the target language. I get some push back at the beginning of every year from older students new to the school but once they get used to the routine and realize they can use the scaffolding provided any resistance dies down.

Kagan structures like Hand Up, Pair Up or Mix, Pair, Share makes it less scary and fun for kids to speak in the target language. Read more here.

They're elementary students and don't have the inhibitions older students have. Just another reason I love teaching the littles!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Día de muertos Ideas and Resources for Spanish Class

It's that time of the year! Halloween and Dia de muertos are fast approaching. Here are some ideas and resources to get you started!



1. Build your ofrenda! This year I put mine in the hallway so that students can see it every day on their way to their specials classes. The gym teacher overheard a kid calling it the "Coco table!" I only actually teach Day of the Dead to 2nd grade since their focus for the year is Mexico but other students love seeing the table and posters.


I use fake apples and flowers from the craft shop. The papel picado came from Hobby Lobby. The calaveras came from Rite-Aid last year and the posters are from Teacher's Discovery. I like to use butcher paper and label everything so students can easily see what the names for each item are in Spanish.


Mundo de Pepita also has a create your ofrenda that is cute. I saw it on Twitter where someone had magnetized it so students could play around with it. Can't wait to try it!


2. Watch some videos! This first video is great for tying Día de muertos with butterfly migration. I plan on having students listen for the vocab words they learned during that unit - mariposa, invierno, and months of the year. 


This video is in English but it is short and I like that it features kids the same ages as my students. It was a nice introduction this past week to Día de muertos.



3. Read some books! I checked this book out from the library. It's English with lots of Spanish mixed in. My plan is to "read" it in Spanish to my students, where I will just simplify the language and describe the pictures for my students. And then fingers crossed maybe some of them will check it out and read it on their own later.


I also have this book, which will be good to review the family members honored during Día de muertos celebrations. After I use them in second grade, my plan is to put them out on the ofrenda so students can look at them.




4. Have students show what they have learned! I will have students look at the ofrenda, the posters in the hallway, and Día de muertos infographics to label an ofrenda. Then they can color it.



We will also do a compare and contrast activity. I've used hula hoops in the past and my students thought that was super fun. I also just got a new venn diagram pocket chart that I'm dying to try out! 


You can get your own word wall words, labeling and matching worksheets, and links to the infographics in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!



What are your favorite Día de muertos activities and resources? Share in the comments below!


Sunday, September 30, 2018

I CANs that promote proficiency

My district has implemented these 5x5 walk-throughs which means my principal pops in from time to time for 5 minutes and one of the things on her checklist is whether or not I have learning objectives posted and if they are rigorous.  I can statements and me have a stormy past. I learned in my university classes that I should be using them but I've written bad ones, forgot to post or refer to them, made them too vague etc. Every year though I get a little better at doing them.

Recently we did a training on Proficiency Based Instructional Outcomes in my district. Here are some thoughts we shared and asked ourselves to reflect on...



Most of the examples are learning objectives I have actually used in the past. 

1. Are they are at the right level? This means you have to know what level you are targeting. If I'm targeting novice mid I shouldn't have I cans that are asking for intermediate or advanced tasks. So "I can talk about what I did this weekend" (advanced) is out for my elementary kiddos but "I can tell you what the weather is today in Lexington, KY and at another famous landmark" (novice) is in.

2. Are they measurable? I used to be really vague. "I can identify colors." It's not horrible but admins are notorious for asking how I will measure it they made it or not. How many colors do they need to identify? Is one enough? 5? 6? "I can identify 4 colors in a Joan Miro painting" is a double whammy because it tells them exactly how many colors they need to identify and brings in the target culture. "I can make a Joan Miro inspired artwork and describe my piece" actually has my kinders doing something with the language.

3.Do they reflect what students can do in a real world context?  Part of the power of learning objectives/instructional outcomes is that students understand what and why they are working towards. If they don't understand the outcome then you lose that power. So "I can use the verb necesitar correctly" is out. "I can list items I need for school" is in. Or if they don't necessarily reflect a real world task like "I can list the days of the week" then they should be a stepping stone to something that is. My first graders start by listing the days of the week so that later they "...can read a weather forecast for the week."

4. Do you refer to them? How? Soooo...I've had several people who've told me to post them in English, point to them, and say them aloud in the target language. That sounds great for middle and high but it's problematic in elementary school for a big reason - a lot of my students are preliterate. They can't read the I can statements so I usually take less than a minute and say them in English. Or sometimes in upper grades I ask a student to read them in English. Referring to them is my biggest weakness although I am getting better.

5. Logistics - I see up to 10 classes a day. I don't have the board space to post the outcomes. And because I like it to be specific to that day not just the end of the unit I have a LOT of outcomes. I like to keep a Google Slides presentation that has a slide for each grade level. Each slide has a graphic with vocab that students can refer to, a bellringer activity for 3rd'5th to start the class, the essential questions for the unit, and the I cans for the unit.

This year I decided to put ALL of them for the unit on the slide and just bold and highlight the ones for the day. That way students can see where they have been, where we are going, and maybe most importantly I don't have to keep editing the slides EVERY single day. Below are some examples from first and fourth grade.

First Grade:


Fourth Grade:




How do I incorporate intercultural competence? With ACTFL's new Can Do statements I am still wrapping my head around this one. The main tenets are Investigate and Interact.

My fourth graders are learning clothing vocabulary. For investigate, we started with I can list 3 clothing items in a school uniform but then moved on to I can compare and contrast what I wear at school to what students in Spain wear. Although according to ACTFL they can't really compare and contrast until the intermediate level, but I think with guidance and scaffolding this definitely possible at a novice level.

For interact, they will get on the El Corte Ingles site and shop for a school uniform from a school dress code I found online (yay for authentic resources!) They will also design and describe a school uniform based on what they have learned. I threw in "I can compliment a friend on their clothing" because it makes a good entry activity and it gets them thinking about what they and their friends are wearing. This is my first time teaching this unit so I'm still making tweaks to both the activities and the instructional outcomes.


Resources:

ACTFL Can Do Statements  - New Can Do statements document
Musicuentos post on new Can Do statements - A run down of the new Can Do document that is really useful
NNELL Archived Webinars - Several of these webinars address Can Do statements. They are free for current NNELL members (only $30!)


So those are my reflections after our training on learning objectives. How do you write and post your learning objectives? How do you share them with your students? How do you incorporate interculturality?  Please share in the comments below!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

No I Won't Say It In English - Motivating Students in a 90% TL Classroom

I literally just got home from another great KWLA conference. I had a great turnout Friday for my presentation - No I Won't Say It In English - Motivating Students in a 90% TL Classroom. Click on the picture below to access the Google Slides presentations. It has links to all the resources I talked about in the session.



How do you motivate your students? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

¡Vamos al supermercado!

My kindergartners just "ate up" this thematic unit on the supermercado (haha...I love horrible puns!) We had so much fun that it's become one of my favorite things to teach. Who knew that an annoying weekly chore for adults could be so much for kids? The truth is that the supermarket is a gold mine for one of the big C's - Connections. You can connect it to math, literacy, and basic life skills.



Target Vocabulary:

supermercado/restaurante
comida - pan, huevos, leche, frutas, verduras, jamón, jugo, helado, chocolate, tocino
por favor
gracias
de nada
numbers 1-10
me gusta/no me gusta
Que rico/guácala

1. First things first we watched Calico Spanish's Chocolate video. This is always a hit no matter the grade and even though it's not wholly traditional, I really like the change from bate bate to a mi, me gusta chocolate at the end because it really gets students using that language chunk correctly. 

I introduced what a supermercado is. We talked about which supermarkets they knew of. Because they're in kindergarten some got confused and gave me restaurant names which led into a sorting activity. Then I introduced the foods with flashcards and students told their shoulder partners if they liked or disliked them. For an added bonus we also said que rico/delicioso or guácala (my kinders favorite thing to say each year.) 


2. To practice the food vocabulary more we looked at my picture dictionaries. I called out a food and they had to find it in the picture. Think Where's Waldo but with los huevos. It was particularly effective because as they looked for it they repeated the word and then repeated it some more with excitement when they had found it.  Next, we looked at real supermarket ads (authentic resources!) and we did the same seek and find game. This game worked a lot better than something like matamoscas because the pictures were more engaging than just flashcards and since there was no competition there were also no tears.


Get a free copy of the supermarket ads here

My Ks freaked out looking at these ads - they were SOOO excited. I thought it was odd until I remembered we live in a digital society now. They probably have seen very few grocery ads. Unlike me who grew up loving to look through the newspaper each week.


3. Then we read the book Peppa Pig va al supermercado. I was able to snag this book last summer when I was in Ibiza. 




4. Since our book was all about grocery shopping with a list we worked on writing our own lists. First we did it in a large group. I bought this gigantic magnet that looks like notebook paper last summer and it was perfect for writing and displaying our list. Students help me decide what to put on my list and we talked about which items we liked and disliked. We also counted how many items we had on the list.

In the next class I continued with whole group instruction. Again we wrote a class list but this time I had play food on my desk. After writing our list, I had volunteers come up and they chose something off my desk. Then I let them cross that item off of our list. As we went along we did math problems in Spanish. We subtracted one each time to get the new number of items on our list. Since adding and subtracting within 10 is a math skill in kindergarten this was a quick and natural way to integrate it into Spanish class. 


5. Finally students were ready to strike out on their own. First they did a matching worksheet where they had a list and they had to draw a line to the correct food. Then they got a chance to write their own lists based on what foods they liked. 



I printed out the grocery ads and put them next to the items. Some shopkeepers just asked for random numbers while others were very conscientious to look at the price advertised. Either way it was an easy way to make it a more text rich environment and students self-differentiated based on what they were ready for.


6. Once they had written their own lists we did a grocery role play. I had plastic food, plush food from Ikea, and laminated food I had printed off the internet. I even had plastic bags from Krogers for them to carry their bought items. This was of course pretty chaotic but they had so much fun. I even had one kiddo tell me that he was "so excited I can't sleep!"



You can get all of the worksheets, role play material, as well as links to other sites and additional videos I used in this unit in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 



While I taught this unit with kindergartners I think it would work well with any age level. For older students I would give them a budget they have to keep as they shop. They could research a recipe from the target culture and shop for the items that they need. I can't take all 100 kindergartners on a field trip to the local Aguascalientes Supermercado but it would be totally doable with a Spanish club or Spanish 1 class. The possibilities are endless! How do you teach food and the supermercado? Share in the comments below!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Back to School - Big List of Links

It's that time of the year! We started last week and my schedule has changed so I'm back in the Specials rotation which means not only the craziness of a new school year but adjusting my lesson plans. Thankfully, I already have a lot that is ready to go from past years.

If you've already started or you're getting your classroom ready here are some of my posts that are the most useful this time of the year!


1. Bulletin Board ideas 

2. Classroom decorations including Question word posters to get your students asking questions.

3. Get organized - everything from extra glue caps to notebooks color coded by class and grade level.

4. Get student input on what they want to learn this year with a student interest survey.

5. Chichen Itza Proficiency Pyramid - teach your students what it means to be a novice mid vs. a novice high.

6. Have students set their own proficiency goals with this goal setting sheet. 

7. Have students track their progress using a Si se puede bubble sheet.

8. Send home newsletters with I can statements and links to videos so students can practice at home.

9. Plan your lessons using this free curriculum.

10. Teach your procedures and routines first so you can go 90%-100% target language later.

11. Start by teaching about school supplies or places around the school.

12. Remember these things if you're a new teacher!


What are your favorite back to school resources? Share in the comments below and have a great year!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

La Familia activities and 2 FREE Resources!

La Familia is a fun unit and I always learn a ton about my students - mostly who is related to who because even though I can remember all 500+ names I never realize who is whose brother or sister.  Here are some songs and activities that my students really enjoyed. 

My students love the following 2 songs. They're super catchy and you might find yourself singing them in the shower. 



I also love love love the interactive activities on the website Victoria Languages Online. Their family module is perfect for novice learners of any age. Since I don't have enough computers we rotated and did them with centers. The other two centers were a magnet center where students spelled out the different family members and a book center where I had different books that they could read about families.

And because I love to integrate math we also graphed who had brothers and sisters. We did it first in whole group using an anchor chart. (I recommend laminating it so you can write on it, then wipe it off, and do it again for the next class.)



Next, we did it again but students filled out their own graphs. Get a FREE copy of the graphing page here.


So yeah this graph came out looking interesting. Jajaja - luckily my friends just saw an upside down T. 

But my favorite set of activities came from Gap Minder. Have you guys heard of the website Gap Minder? It is seriously  awesome. I discovered it in a Facebook group this past school year and me and my students had a great time looking at how people lived around the world. 


Julie from Mundo de Pepita gave me the idea of looking at the different families and counting the different family members. First, students traced the different family members. Then we looked at pictures of families from different continents (which we had studied during our weather unit.) 

I had checked with one of the classroom teachers beforehand and she told me that they were working on and needed practice with tally marks so we kept a running tally of the different family members we saw in each picture. Later we counted by 5s and wrote the numeral next to our tally marks. This part was actually pretty difficult for most of my English speaking students but was a quick way to hit some core content with my heritage speakers and gifted students. 



In the next class I had students write out the members of their own family. Then we did the Kagan structure Hand Up, Pair Up and they walked around and described their families to each other. Get your FREE copy here!

Finally, students drew family portraits. I had them listen and draw the different body parts as I said them in Spanish (great throwback to our body parts unit in kindergarten) and then they labeled their pictures and again shared them with each other and the class. Fun for Spanish Teachers has a great La Familia Activity Set that I got the frame from. I also printed her cards and gave them to my first grade classroom teachers. They put them in their morning boxes so kids could practice outside of  class.



What are your favorite familia activities? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

FCPS K-5 World Language Curriculum

I realized I keep mentioning having a new curriculum this year but I haven't actually gone into much detail. So here are some details!



- You can find it here Fayette County WL Curriculum Documents

- It is a formal curriculum which means it's big picture and is an overall guide rather than being an operational curriculum that gives you more specifics. It's written with the hope that the program has 90 minutes a week but is adaptable to programs that don't (like mine!)

-Every subject area in our district had to use the same template -  the different sections pull from ACTFL's national standards, the KY World Language Standard, and FCPS's Student Growth Goal Rubrics. (The rubric link takes you to the KWLA Resources page. You can find the rubrics for all 3 modes of communication from there.)

- I'm learning to go bigger in my themes and use performance based assessments rather than just building a theme around a book. That's not a bad way to do things but a lot of times those smaller themes I was doing fit well into the larger ones.

- The curriculum lends itself easily to performance based assessments and they have been life changing. My students are SO motivated when I tell them at the beginning of a unit that we will be creating something or doing a dramatic role play that they stay engaged throughout the unit. I often will get, "when are we doing the shopping game?" I answer, "When you're ready. You have to learn all the Spanish you need first." They easily accept this answer and it works for classroom management because they know if they're not behaving they don't get to participate. I used to do this in my doctor unit but scaling it up to nearly all of my units has really made a huge difference.

- One of the amazing things has been discovering new units that I can't believe I never taught before. Like Me and My School in first grade or Me and My Home in third grade. The themes are high student interest.



If you are without a curriculum (a common theme among FLES teachers!) then I highly recommend looking at the FCPS curriculum. It's free and is a great guide on what to teach when. It's super adaptable to different needs. I won't say it hasn't been an adjustment this year but overall it's been a positive change to my classroom.

What curriculum do you use? How do you decide what to teach when? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Gradual Release Model in the FLES Classroom - #SCOLT18

SCOLT was so great this year! I might even venture to say I got more out of it than I did ACTFL this year. All of the sessions I attended were great and I was able to meet and network with a lot of great teachers in the Southeast region.

I don't know what other people do at conferences but I pick sessions in several different ways. One way I pick sessions is based on who is presenting. If they've got a reputation for being a great presenter then I go. So when my co-worker Ben suggested I go to Greta Lundgaard's session because she was great, I went. And guess what? She was great. 

Her presentation was on the gradual release model of teaching and how to use it in World Languages. There are four stages - I DO, WE DO, YOU DO TOGETHER, YOU DO ALONE. Turns out I'm pretty good at stages 1, 2, and 4 but almost never do stage 3 - YOU DO TOGETHER.

While I sat there a light bulb went off in my head. I had just finished having my 4th and 5th graders write a description of themselves to go with self-portraits they had made in art class. They had watched me write a description of myself. We had written one together. And then I sent them off to write their own.



For some kids it was no problem but for most it was like pulling teeth. And I realized it was because we had missed that important step of YOU DO TOGETHER. I also think they could've done with some more initial input but this is my first year with this curriculum and I'm still working out the kinks. YOU DO TOGETHER is also a good time to walk around and check on students or work with groups that need more help. Next year I need to pull my struggling students and work with them in a small group while I let everyone else work together.





Greta also talked about slowly taking away the scaffolding. If they couldn't do it then you put it back and then later take it away again. She used the example of having students write about what they did over the weekend. Even just saying don't forget to use preterite and imperfect is a form of scaffolding. Again, I realized I had been doing that. I say things like "Don't forget to use a complete sentence." And then I point to our sentence frames on the wall ALL THE TIME. It's ok to do this but by the end of the unit/year/5th grade they really need to be able to do that without my reminder if they're truly performing at the Novice High level. 

So what does that mean for this unit next year?

1. More initial input so students can see and hear the structures Soy ____ and Es ______. I have a few authentic resources and some readers I want to add next year to help with this. Our list of words was also way too long. I need to narrow it down so students don't get overwhelmed. 

2. When it comes to writing we are going to do YOU DO TOGETHER where students will write a paragraph describing each other, a famous person, etc. I think we need to do this several rotations so that they can improve on their work each time. Giving them one to correct would also help them recognize the patterns and identify those same mistakes in their own writing. Bonus - this definitely connects to core content and I will ask classroom teachers if there is anything specifically in the writing process I need to emphasize. 

3. Differentiate - while students are working in pairs I will make sure to pull a small group of students who need extra help and work with them where they need it.

4. Pull the scaffolding away. It's ok for me to remind students to write in complete sentences but eventually they need to know to do it on their own.


Hoping next year this unit will go smoother! How do you get your students to write at a higher level? How and when do you pull away scaffolding? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Los Tres Cerditos - An Elementary Spanish STEAM Challenge

I have a brand new curriculum this year and I haven't had as much time to incorporate STEM into my lessons as I've had before but I recently got the chance in third grade.

My third graders recently finished a unit on extreme weather. We practiced counting to 100 and talking about being afraid with Worry Doll Math unit and then we talked about the temperature and extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. The following unit in our new district K-5 curriculum just happens to be Me and My Home so I decided to introduce houses with The Three Little Pigs.

Spanish FLES


First, I told them the story using story props from my favorite site kizworld.com. The students helped act it out and we discussed which pig was smart, which house was strong, and who in the story was mean.

Target Vocabulary:

Vivo en...
una casa de paja, madera, ladrillos
Es fuerte.
Es inteligente.
Es simpático.
Es antipático.

To wrap it all up, the students completed a STEAM challenge. They had to build houses out of straw, wood, and bricks that could withstand a tornado, hurricane, and a flood (tying it back to our previous unit.)

I put them in groups of four and they each had to construct a house of either straw, wood, or bricks. There were not allowed to use any English. They had a sheet with a list of phrases they might use which we went over before starting or they could act something out. The paper included all of the supplies, plus interpersonal phrases like more/less, I like it/I don't like it, Very good/Oh no!, I agree/I don't agree. It's important to remember that the more cognitively challenging the task the less TL students will be able to produce which is why we stuck with easy phrases that they had learned in previous units. If they did use English they were sent to the penalty box for a few minutes.


Spanish FLES STEAM challenge 3 little pigs


The straw group had plastic drinking straws cut in half, strips of paper, masking tape, and play-doh. The wood group had wooden craft sticks, masking tape, and play-doh. The bricks group had legos.

I worked it out with my third grade team that I would take their classes for 50 minutes instead of 25 so that we had enough time to build and test their houses. The only English I used was to clarify that to test a house it must have four walls and a roof. Because of our time constraints I didn't worry about a door or a floor. I also explained the English penalty box. Then we flipped the sign back to Spanish and away we went.

I was really impressed at their ability to work together and in Spanish. They didn't resent the penalty box and one class even policed themselves and would put themselves and each other in the box without my direction. After about 25 minutes we tested each house.

FLES Spanish STEAM Los 3 Cerditos


I've seen this challenge on Pinterest done with a hair dryer that has ears and eyes to make it resemble a wolf but since I was connecting it back to our severe weather unit we went with a tornado, hurricane, and flood.L

For the tornado it had to stand up under a hair dryer. For a hurricane we used the hair dryer and a spray bottle. The flood was the hardest and only one house passed (and a straw one at that!) We put them down in a tub of water. It passed if no water got up into the house. Even though we had previously looked at pictures of houses on stilts none of the students seemed to remember that as a solution - they kept trying to make them float.

I think next year I will add a reflection sheet or checklist that they can do after in Spanish, but overall, it was a great way to get out some energy the week before Spring Break. I was very happy with how the students used both their creative and collaboration skills along with some basic Spanish phrases.

Other Resources:

Las Casas Increibles - a great website with easy text and pictures of traditional houses around the world.

Los Tres Cerditos Reader - an easy reader my kiddos loved by Speak Up Language Learners on TpT


What do you teach in your house unit? Have you taught Los 3 Cerditos? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Get more time for your FLES program!

I often get questions about my schedule from other FLES teachers. It's funny that when I tell high school teachers how many students I have (520) and that I see them for 25 minutes every other day, I get looks of horror. But when I tell other FLES teachers the same they want to know how I got so lucky and what did I do to get that schedule. I didn't always have it so good...



Here's what my schedule has looked like over the last six years.

Year 1 - Spanish was in the Specials rotation and on a cart. I taught K-5 once every 6 days for 55 minutes. It was horrible. Students would forget what I had taught the last time I saw them. I didn't have a curriculum and I realized later that I was going too fast and expecting too much.

Year 2&3 - Spanish was still in the Specials rotation but I convinced my admins that it would be better for the students if I saw them twice in the 6 days. I switched with Library one year and Computer Lab the other. Halfway through the 55 minutes me and the other Special Area teacher would swap classes. A fourth grade teacher remarked that she could tell a difference in how much Spanish the students could speak after making this change.

Year 4&5 - We lost population and we switched from a 6 day rotation to a 5 day rotation. Someone needed to come out of the schedule. I begged my admins to please let it be me. My vice-principal told me to propose a schedule and she would consider it. I came up with a A/B schedule where I saw 2nd-5th grade for 25 minutes every other day and K-1st for 15 minutes every other day. I was on the cart for K-1.

Year 6 - I see everyone for 25 minutes every other day. I get an hour of plan during the instructional day on Day B and none on Day A so instead of doing morning duty I use that as my plan time instead, which I am happy with since I actually end up with a little extra time. Here's what it looks like today. You can see that I don't get any time between classes within a grade level so one class is leaving as another is coming but I do get 5 minutes between grades to reset and get ready.




Advice for other teachers:

1. If you are in a schedule like my first year where you only see your students once a week or less then work to convince your admins to let you switch with another class. I was lucky that my PE and Music teacher were already doing this so there was precedence at my school for this arrangement. If you don't have this at your school try starting with Music or PE. The motor skills that they teach in those classes also benefit from seeing the students more frequently. Art, STEM, and Library are not usually good candidates because getting out/putting up supplies and checkout takes up a lot of time and these teachers usually want the full time.

2. Take baby steps and educate your administrators on how proficiency works. I didn't go from once every 6 days to every other day. We worked up to that as my administrators saw my students improving in their Spanish proficiency. They saw how the increased frequency was working and were willing to give me more time.

3. Be flexible and creative. My A/B schedule would not have worked those first few years because we simply had too many students. When it did make sense I had to get creative and be willing to do 15 minutes on a cart with younger grades. It wasn't ideal but I made it work. In fact, I had a first grade teacher tell me I put them to shame with how much I got done in 15 minutes.

4. Be realistic. There's no way my current schedule would have worked those first few years because our school was so big that I didn't even get my own classroom until my third year. Only because of redistricting and an aging population in our district has allowed me to have more time. You have to do what works for your school and your population. I was also extremely lucky to have a supportive admin in charge of scheduling. If your admin isn't on board right away it might take more time to win them over.

5. Be flexible...like really really flexible. Yes, I said be flexible already but I'm saying it again because it's that important. Now that I'm out of the Specials rotation I have kids pulled out of my class ALL the time. We try our best to make sure everyone gets Spanish but some kids come late from intervention, some Special Ed kids don't come because they have to have so much time in the resource room, some get pulled on Thursdays and Fridays for gifted and talented. MAP testing sometimes conflicts with my class. I'm okay with all of this because I'd rather see most of the students every other day. Also it's not much worse than what I experienced when I was in the rotation. It's just the life of a FLES teacher.

6. Always be advocating for your program. You won't get more time if the admins, classroom teachers, and families don't love your program. Make sure your students' learning is visible. Put in the hallway, send it home, teach lessons that your students go home talking about, invite all stakeholders into your classroom.

7. Stay positive. Being a FLES teacher with large numbers of students and not a lot of contact time is hard but by staying positive I have been able to enact change at my school.  Every year I think, "Wow! This is so awesome. It can't be better than this!" But then it gets better. And let's be honest any time in the target language is better than no time so keep that in your mind while you work to get MORE time.


So that's how I got to see my students every other day. And I'm chewing on an idea to see even more of my older students and maybe even the preschoolers at my school next year. How often do you see your students? What do you do to get more time with them? Share in the comments below!