Saturday, March 22, 2014

That's how I roll - Games to practice conversations

I don't like to make mistakes. And neither do my kids. Getting students to take the risk and speak in Spanish can be a challenge, especially as they get older. One way to lower that affective filter is to make speaking fun. Here are 3 games I use in class to get my students talking.

Matching Game - Students use the same cards from Manos Rápidos but this time they get 1-4 cards each. Walking around the room they either have to find the other person who has their matching card OR they have to trade cards to get 3 of a kind. To get their matches first they have to say Hola, then they play jankenpón (or your TL's version of rock, paper, scissors.) The student who wins asks for a card while the loser has to hand over the card if they have it. Almost any conversation you are practicing in class can be used for example:

Losing Student : Where are you from?
Winning Student: I'm from (name of country card he wants.)

LS: How's the weather?
WS: Its (weather of the card he wants.)

LS: How are you?
WS: I'm (emotion card he wants.)

And so on and so forth. They sit down when they have their matches so I can see who is still working. Or sometimes they come up to me and I give them new cards so they can keep playing. the dice - This is fun with regular dice but is SUPER fun if you happen to have some over-sized or fluffy dice. I have two big fluffy dice I use when we play as a whole group and over-sized dice from the dollar store for games in pairs. To play this game, students roll the dice. Whatever number they roll corresponds to a question their partner then asks them in the TL. Then they switch. You can change up the questions for any vocabulary you are studying. I also like to include a few review questions in there as well.

Dance Party! - My kids perk up whenever they see dance party on my whiteboard schedule. This is a simple game to motivate them to practice the conversation we are studying. I play some music and students dance around the room. When the music stops they have to freeze, then find a friend. They give them a high five and then practice their conversation in Spanish. Make it more interesting by giving them a card with different information that they have to exchange.
Pass the ball - This is another super simple game and is a good one to pull out if you have a few extra minutes at the end of class. The students sit in a circle and pass a ball back and forth. They have to ask and answer a question in the TL before passing. For example - My name is Jennifer. What's your name? If you want students to have more turns split them up into smaller groups, with each group having their own ball.

What are some of the games you play to get your students talking in the TL? Share in the comments below! I love new ideas (in fact the pass the ball game came from a comment here on another post!)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A day in the life of a FLES teacher

Just another Manic Monday!

6:50 - I arrive at school. Turn on the computer, check email, figure out what I'm doing in each class today and write it on a post-it. Make sure everything I need is on the cart. Run to the workroom to make some last minute copies. I'm going to start centers in 3rd grade so I'm frantically putting together the last activity.

7:30 - Meeting with my principal about my recent observation. She thinks I'm wonderful!

7:45 - Last minute packing and preparing for the day.

8:00 - It's Day 1 in the rotation so I roll into my first class at 8. We do a QR code scavenger hunt. I give the kids the tough "If you even think about using these ipods inappropriately then you will NEVER get to use them again" speech. One student gets upset about who she has to work with and doesn't follow us into the hall. I sneak back to see if she's still in the room. I ask another teacher to call the behavior specialist to come get her since I can't watch her and the class on the other side of the building. No answer. She calls the SAFE teacher. No answer. Luckily her classroom teacher is in the room with her. But still not the way I wanted to start my Monday...

8:30 - Class is over, ipods collected, and wayward child given a stern talking to. I explain that sometimes in life we have to work with people who are not our best friends.Now it's time for planning! Still working on 3rd grade centers....and then I chicken out and decide they need more work together before I set them free on their own.

9:00 - 4th grade class. Huge group of them are missing thanks to orchestra. Another big group is gone because some parent is tutoring in math and he apparently doesn't know the specials schedule. At one point I make the kids stand up because they are falling asleep - stupid time change!

9:30 - Planning! Email teachers about Culture Night coming up. More copies since I changed the 3rd grade plan last minute. You can no longer see my desk.

10:00 - First 2nd grade class. We practice "How old are you?" I pass back a worksheet (or challenge sheet as I called it) and announce that they have won the challenge. We end class learning the basic salsa step and they dance their way into line and out of the room on their way to library.

10:30 - Second 2nd grade class. I tell them the schedule only to have them inform me they have already had this lesson. So I erase and start over! We start our book pages for a book we are making all year called "Todo sobre mi." I play Marc Anthony while they work.

11:00 - First 3rd grade class. The SMART board isn't working, the teacher informs me. I draw my family tree on my cart's whiteboard instead. I realize I made extra copies of the book we are going to read but left them on my desk. Send a student to go get them while I pass out the ones I do have. She returns and says she couldn't find them. I question her and am convinced she didn't look hard enough so I send two more boys. They quickly return with the books that we need. We read the story and they start the worksheet with comprehension questions but then I notice the other 3rd grade class already filing in their room next door. Time to go to library kids!

11:30 - Second 3rd grade class. We review the members of my family. My teacher heart surges as they ask me IN SPANISH how old each member of my family is and what their name is. This class is why I became a teacher. We read our book but run of time for the comprehension questions because they spent so much time discussing my family earlier.

12:00 - Lunch with my team. I have one kid come to me for his recess because I caught him yelling in the hall during a fire drill on Friday.

12:25 - First Kindergarten class. We sing two songs and dance and then play Diego dice. They are a little squirrely but not bad considering the time change.

12:51 - They leave to go to the library. I roll into my next kindergarten class.

1:03 - The next class FINALLY comes in. We sing the same song but run out of time to play Diego dice. During the last song two first graders come in and ask me if I want a cupcake since it's one of their birthdays. Uh...yes! I almost never get birthday cupcakes so I never turn them down when offered.

1:25 - Planning! Stop in to talk to the curriculum coach about bringing up Culture Night Mini-Unit plans in the teacher's team meetings this week. Last minute planning for the after school program.

1:55 - Sitting in the 1st grade class checking facebook, waiting for the students to show up. They finally do. We continue studying clothing, passing around each item as we say it.

2:25 - Roll my cart back to my office, grab my coat, and head outside for afternoon car loop duty. I remind the kids sternly that they need to be in a straight line at a level 0 while they listen for their car rider number.

2:50 - head inside, another check of email and then head to the STEM lab where I will teach the after school program until 4:40.

5:00 - Head home completely exhausted.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What's Working - QR Code Scavenger Hunt

So my 4th and 5th graders are learning how to describe people. First we learned descriptions with the verb tener. We did a mystery story where we had to guess who stole their teacher's special pencils based on descriptions of people seen in the school after dismissal. Then they wrote their own descriptions and read them to the class to guess.

Now we've added descriptions with the verb ser. Just like with the tener phrases we learned them using Whole Brain Teaching and then they wrote them in their dictionaries. I had several descriptions of people that would have been SUPER easy to just put in a worksheet and have the kids match the description with the picture, but that would have been BOOOORRRING.

So what to do instead?

A scavenger hunt! To liven it up I created a QR Code scavenger hunt. Using the site, I created my quiz, printed off the QR codes and then hid them in the hall. (If you have a room you would just hide them there but since I travel I put them in the 4/5 hallway.) I printed off the answer sheet with the character pictures in color, then slid them into sheet protectors so students could write on them with dry erase markers. Then I set the kids loose in the hall with ipod touches*. The codes were hidden in plain sight on the wall, under tables and on the sides of filing cabinets. If they weren't sure of a word then they could look it up in their dictionaries.


It was a huge hit! The kids were so focused on finding the codes and the answers that they barely realized they were reading Spanish. If you don't happen to have access to ipods or devices with QR code scanners you could easily do this low-tech and hide the picture and have the students walk around with the descriptions.At the end of class, they wiped their sheets cleaned and turned in their ipods. In the next class, we went over the answers as a whole group, checking our answers on the SMART board (if you hide the answers under a disappearing rectangle they will beg to be the one to come up and click it to reveal the correct answer!)

Have you used QR codes in your classroom? My kids loved this activity so I'd love more ideas on how to incorporate them. Share in the comments below!

*On a side note: Our district has technology you can check out from central office, including a set of 20 ipod touches that have the QR code scanner app. We have over 50 schools in our district but apparently only me and one other teacher at my school know this service exists because NO ONE else ever checks out the tech. I literally had a set of flipcams for 3 months because I just kept extending my checkout when I saw no one else had reserved them. The moral of this story is if you are lacking tech at your school ask around and see if your district doesn't have something similar.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Projects - Books as Bridges Update

This year my fifth graders have been participating in a program called Books As Bridges, which is part of the local charity The International Book Project. So far we've sent one letter to our pen pals in Panama and we've received letters. Last week, a representative from Books As Bridges stopped by school and did a cultural lesson. She showed pictures and talked about the geography, government, popular music and sports, and types of folk art. Then the students got to make a small piece of Mola art and tried some Gallo Pinto (that I had made) and Tres Leches cake (that our visitor had made.)

I was so worried about this big group  lesson. We had all 120+ 5th graders in the library, listening to an unknown speaker and trying to do an art project in the floor. But it really turned out very well! The other Specials teachers I work with are amazing and stuck around and helped pass out paper, scissors, glue and even clean up afterwards. And the kids were really well-behaved and seemed to really enjoy it.

I even got a lady from our PR office to come and write an article about the lesson. You can read all about at this link here.

The students wrote a second letter leading up to the cultural lesson, which we will be sending along with our cultural package. Then in April we will do our service learning project - a book drive.