Saturday, December 5, 2015

Rally Coach for reading exercises

I wrote about Kagan earlier this year and I'm still raving about the different structures and how well they work in my class. My new favorite for reading is Rally Coach.

So what is Rally Coach? Here's a quick video to explain it.

In my class, I hand out one clipboard with the reading exercise in a sheet protector and one dry erase marker to each pair (with 100 kids per grade level this saves a TON of paper.) Students must sit so they can both see the board. They must also read the question out loud and say their answer out loud. I tell them they are not allowed to write any answers until their partner or "coach" has approved it and told them, "Sí, ¡Muy bien!" If the answer is not correct their partner will say, "Let's look again." Once they agree on an answer, the partner with the marker writes it down, and then passes the board and marker to the  other student. They work and pass it back and forth until they are done. Because kids work at different speeds I tell students to play Yo Veo when they are done. Once I hear lots of I spy going on I pull them back and we go over the answers. 

This year so far, we've done this with a reading in Spanish about a monkey who eats too many bananas and gets sick and with a cultural reading in English about La noche de las velitas. I purposely create the worksheets so there is a column for partner A and a column for partner B. 

So why do I love it? Because EVERYONE is engaged and working. Even my usual slackers are more on task because they are held accountable by their partner. The trick to making it work is 1) Have a task that isn't too difficult and 2) model each time beforehand so students know what is expected (right now I still model in English but as we do it more I will switch to Spanish.)

Do you use Rally Coach or other Kagan structures in your classes? Since I'm just getting started with these I'd love to hear other teachers' experiences.  Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Focus on conversation

I've always tried to focus my classes on communicative language rather than grammar. I want my students to speak the language not learn about the language but I've always been the one doing the 90% target language and not my students. So how to change that? Or at least increase my students' TL usage in class?

The answer came from French teacher and KWLA president Sara Merideth. She mentioned keeping key phrases right above the board and focusing on those until students knew them and then replacing them with new ones, constantly building the students' conversational skills.

Sounded good to me so I tried it. I moved my question word wall from the side to right up front - literally right over the white board where I keep the schedule for the day, our I can statements, and WBT scoreboard. Guess what happened? My students are asking more questions! They shout out things like ¿Por qué? ¿Qué? ¿Dónde? While watching a video 2 fifth graders asked me ¿La cámara...hmmmm....dónde? A great example of novice learners using questions!

So I took it a little further. I have a bulletin board just behind where I sit with my white board where I added additional useful phrases. I move one or two to the white board and give students incentives for using them (a ticket that they write their name on and put in a box - once a month I pull out several students names and they win a piece of chocolate.)  We started with ¿Cómo se dice ___ en español? in September and added ¿En serio? for October.

Our useful phrases are written on sentence strips and are stapled on my bulletin board.

But my kiddos noticed that a lot of the phrases are great when playing games - like calling each other out for being a tramposo or Me rindo/No te rindas or  yelling ¡Toma! or ¡Te gané! when they win. Or Tranquilo when we´re getting too loud. My fourth grade classes had me cracking up because several kids in the front were craning their necks to see what phrase they could use next while one kid in the back raised his hand and asked ¿Cómo se dice I'm confused en español? because he couldn't see the board. I've since added the phrases where the back of the class can see them easily as well. We also added them to their folders.

Students glued the phrases to their folders so they're always handy.

When we played Diego Dice (Simon says) they were telling each other to sit down in Spanish and I had to teach them "I didn't do it" on the fly so they could defend themselves against accusations of being out of the game.

We sit on the carpet during class but I know one of my high school teacher friends has a list of useful phrases taped to each desk in her room. Or you could keep them on tables or taped to folders so students can access them easily. Combined with some incentives or competition for using the most target language can really get them talking.

Get a copy of the useful phrases here.

How do you get your students talking in the target language? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Chocolate Clapping Game

Kids of every culture love clapping games.  They're not hard to learn, it helps with pronunciation, and ties in kids' culture. Since we already sing about chocolate when doing my likes and dislikes chapter it was a perfect opportunity to add the clapping game Chocolate.

Choco choco la la
Choco choco te te
Choco la choco te
Choco choco la te

I used this video to introduce the game. I like it because it shows two girls around the same age as my students. 

Then we practiced for a couple minutes at the end of each class. This also makes for a great brain break if you have longer classes. My students LOVE it! Even my boys. I have morning duty in the cafeteria and I usually end up having to clap with at least 3-4 students each morning. Some of them have gotten really really fast!

Here's a video of one of my classes. (Thermal filter so their faces are obscured.)

Do you use any clapping games in your classes? Or other culturally authentic games? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Cinco monitos saltando en la cama

Our animal for Chapter Two is el mono with an emphasis on the verbs comer (eat) and saltar (jump). This year I have been experimenting with more TPRSish storytelling techniques. I´ve used 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed before but this year I wanted to make sure that the students were not just learning that monkey is mono but also learning some high frequency phrases.

I started with this basic video that focuses on the structure There is _____. Some kids got frustrated at how slow it went but I knew it was working when a fifth grade boy told me in the car rider line one afternoon, Hay un mono. ¿Dónde? I asked him. Then he pointed to himself and said it again.

After watching this video I showed them another video - this time with real monkeys. With this video I turn off the sound and together we describe what we see. Hay un mono. Hay dos monos. El mono come. El mono salta. One student told me, "Estoy triste" when the monkey steals and eats a bird egg. The students generally react with excitement when watching the real animals. I've used similar videos when talking about other animals.  (One thing I will do better next time is make sure that the students know these monkeys live in Costa Rica. We can find it on the map and ask if Hay monos en Kentucky? for a quick comparison.)

In the next class I told them the story of the Cinco Monitos using the storytelling props from I start out by pulling out one monkey and questioning students about how many monkeys there are. At some point I tell them NO, no hay un mono. Hay dos monos and I pull out the second monkey. Then repeat until I surprise them with the third. And so forth up to five. Some classes get smart and will say the next number before I can while other classes wait for me to spring it on them. Below is how I ask the questions during the story. I have the two sentences. Hay ___ monos, Los monos saltan en la cama, and No más monos saltando en la cama up on the board so students can easily answer my questions. I ask them to answer chorally and also individually, mixing it up so they have to pay attention.

¿Cuántos monos hay? Hay cinco monos. ¿Hay 2 monos? No no hay 2 monos. Hay cinco monos. 

Los monos saltan. Los monos saltan en la cama. ¿Los monos bailan el flamenco? No, los monos saltan en la cama. ¿Los monos comen las bananas? No, los monos saltan en la cama. 

Mamá mono llama al doctor. El doctor dice, "¡No más monos saltando en la cama!"

¿Hay cinco monos? No, no hay cinco monos. Hay cuatro monos. ¿Cuántos monos hay? etc. etc. 

Even my fifth graders are enjoying listening to this story. I've had several classes groan when I said it was time to go. They especially like to yell the answers when I say the wrong thing. There's something about correcting the teacher that gets them no matter what age they are.

High frequency phrases to focus on:

Hay ____.
El doctor dice _____.
No más ______.

After finishing the story we watched the video and sing along. The way I tell the story doesn't match the song exactly but it´s close enough that the students understand and can sing along to almost all of it. If you have a rowdy class that needs to get some energy out, I highly recommend jumping around to 5 Monitos. It works wonders

So that's what we've been doing in Spanish class! What have you been up to? How do you teach high frequency phrases? Do you use storytelling or TPRS? I'd love to compare notes. Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang

Saturday, October 17, 2015

¡Soy un artista!

After spending a month in Spain this summer and seeing SOOO much great art at the Museu Picasso and the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona as well as the Prado and Reina Sofia in Madrid, I decided I needed to add more art to my curriculum.

Works by Joan Miró in Barcelona

I always start the year off with kindergarten with the learning targets of "I can describe things using colors." and "I can introduce myself." I kept El gusano Tutu but added postcards of Miró paintings that I got in Barcelona as well as the book El arte tiene colores.

First we learned the colors two at a time. We would practice by playing the Color Point game (I say ¿Dónde está rojo? and students have to find it in the room and point.) We would describe each other's clothes by saying Es rojo. No es rojo. And we would read the page from El arte tiene colores for that color. 

Once we had all the colors learned we looked at el arte. I showed students a picture of Joan Miró and we described the colors that we saw and if we liked the picture or not. We also learned that "Joan Miró era un artista. ¡Yo soy un artista!" This tied into our other learning target of introducing ourselves. We did this for several classes in a row. I can walk in and say ¿Hay artistas en esta clase? ¿Dónde están los artistas? and the students will raise their hands and say ¡Soy artista! or ¡Artista, artista! 

Then we colored a picture of one of Miró's works. Students colored the bottom shapes with the correct color and then found those shapes in the pictures and colored them the same color (I found this worksheet in an image search but it wasn't usable so I re-created it. You can get it for free by clicking on the link below.)

Finally, we created our own Miró inspired arte. We started out by chanting, blanco, blanco el papel es blanco. Negra, negra, la linea es negra. Rojo, rojo, el circulo es rojo. Verde, verde, el triangulo es verde (or whatever color we decided as a class) while I drew on the board. Then I handed out the papers and the students created their own versions while I walked around and asked them to describe their pictures. 

I think the results came out really well. And the best part is that students not only know their colors and how to introduce themselves but they know a little more of the culture as well. We will continue our study of artists and their works with Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas. 

Do you teach works of art in your classes? I'd love to hear from you and get ideas on how to use more art in my classroom! Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang.

Friday, October 9, 2015

¡Sí, se puede!

I have been looking for a way to monitor my students' participation and progress in class but have never found anything that hasn't completely overwhelmed me (even when I was just trying to focus on 4th & 5th grade - who get letter grades in Specials classes.)  Last spring at SCOLT, I met Nadine Jacobsen-McLean, former elementary school Spanish teacher and current president of NNELL - National Network of Early Language Learners.  She explained how she gave grades to ALL 600+ kindergarteners-5th graders every 9 weeks by using ¡Sí, se puede! bubbles. The beauty of the system is that it can be tailored a hundred different ways depending on your needs. 

I use this picture as my binder cover. 

So how does it work?

I have a binder with class lists with 10 bubbles by each kid's name. When I hear them using Spanish relating to our I can statements or I call on them in class I tell them Si se puede and they go up to the front of the room and color in a bubble by their name. I LOVE it for several reasons.

1. THEY are the ones doing the record keeping for me. I don't have to stop, find their name, or write anything.

2. They love getting up in front of everyone and coloring in their bubble. Kids who used to never raise their hands are now straining to be called on. And the few who aren't are getting used to be called on anyway because...

3. No one falls through the crack because I can quickly scan the sheet to see who hasn't talked in awhile and I make to sure to call on them.  

A screenshot of my Si, se puede sheets. I keep them in a binder at the front of the class.

Right now I'm just using it for participation and they can use any color they want but you can have them use specific colors for different things (Si se puede con verde for meets expectations, con azul for exceeding expectations, and con amarillo for not quite there but trying.) Or you could use colors to distinguish I cans (con amarillo for I can introduce myself, con verde for I can talk about my feelings, etc.) 

I've told the students that they will get a small treat when they reach their 10 bubbles, which will be a Hershey kiss so that I don't break the bank. I have started the year with just 3rd-5th to see how it would go but it's been so easy for both me and the students that I am going to add the rest of the grades very soon (although I'm hoping the littler ones won't need the treat as a bribe and the bubbles will be enough of a reward.)

Get a free bubble template here!

How do you keep track of your students' participation and progress? Share in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #earlylang!

UPDATE! I've moved to tracking students performance levels in class. Yellow means Novice Low. Green is Novice Mid. And blue is Novice High. I tell students they should have a few yellow, lots of green, and a few blues since Novice Mid is our target. I've had students tell me they wanted to get blue and ask how they can get there. Other students are encouraged that even though they are making mistakes or need help they can still get a yellow bubble for trying.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Kagan Structures in Spanish

I went through Day 1 of Kagan training this summer before school starts and it's amazing how much more my students are engaged. They can't hide! If you haven't used Kagan structures before I highly recommend googling cooperative learning strategies or Rally Robin, Rally Coach, and Mix, Pair, Share. They are not subject specific and can easily be adapted for the World Language classroom.

For example, I love to use Rally Robin for a bellringer. Students come in and take turns practicing what we are working on. Here are some samples of what I have on the board for kids when they come in my room.

With your face partner Rally Robin foods that you like. Below is an example.
A - Me gusta el chocolate.
B - Me gusta la pizza.
A - Me gusta el sushi.
B - Me gusta ______.

With your shoulder partner Rally Robin parts of the body. Below is an example.
A - cabeza
B - brazos
A - piernas
B - ojos

Because I literally have one class leaving through one door and another class coming in another door, this helps them come in and get right into speaking Spanish and lets me get the other class out or change my set up if I need to.

Mix, Pair, and Share is something I've used for years - I play music, the students walk around, when the music stops they find a partner and have a conversation. Sometimes I mix it up and shout out a number and they have to make a group with that many kids, or I say a vocab word and they have to give me the gesture that goes with it. The music starts and we do it again.

And Because I like to keep to the 90% target language as much as I can I wanted partner mats in Spanish. Thanks to my colleague (and NNELL-KY Teacher of the Year) Melissa Willing for sharing her resources. You can use them at tables or even on the carpet.

On the carpet my students sit looking at each other with me to the side (so red sits looking at green and green looking at red) - that way they can quickly interact with their face or shoulder partner but can also see me and my white board. 

Do you use Kagan at your school? What is your favorite structure for the elementary school World Language classroom? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang.

Get the partner mats here!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Caperucita Roja

I started out the school year with a story in 2nd grade this year - Caperucita Roja - to review the structures we learned last year using the Calico Spanish curriculum. While I love Calico, I added this before we jumped back in since students tend to forget so much over the summer. Caperucita Roja has so many opportunities to practice basic structures in the language and the kids love it because it´s familiar. 

Target Structures (Things they've seen before are bolded):

¿Cómo te llamas?  Me llamo ______.  
¿Cómo estás? Tengo hambre. Estoy triste. Tengo miedo. Estoy enferma.
Mi abuela está enferma.
¿Por qué?
Necesito ir (a la casa de mi abuela).
Necesitas venir aquí. 
Necesitas abrir la puerta.
¡Yo veo (body part) grande!
Necesito mirar/escuchar/comer.
Gracias/De nada. 

I told the story first using props from I never tell the students what story they are listening to is one they already know in English because it's so much fun to listen to them as they figure it out. Before we start we repeat the expectations - Necesito mirar. Necesito escuchar. Necesito participar. Students participate by repeating the target structures with me as I tell them the story.

After hearing the story in one or two classes, I showed them a powerpoint with the same target structures. While I had individual students come up and act out certain parts, everyone read together (so that we ALL got practice.) My actors held their masks and had to look sad, sick, hungry, and ferocious. :-D At the end we discussed who were the characters, what was the problem in the story, and what was the solution. I let students answer in English (unless they were heritage speakers and then I insisted on Spanish) but we read the answer together in Spanish.

After doing the readers' theater version twice, I handed out envelopes with introductions to each characters. Students had to work together with a partner to match the introductions to the right character. Our staff recently went through Kagan training so we are all trying to use Kagan structures. I told the kids to work together and match them up AND THEN read them to each other using Rally Robin. But my second class didn't quite understand and instead one student would read a sentence and the other student had to find the picture and match it and then they switched - making it more like Rally Coach and a much better way to ensure everyone was engaged, reading AND listening. Don't you love it when students think of a better way to do something? Once they finished they got a worksheet with Sr. Lobo that they had to label the body parts. 

We had to move on quickly to make sure we had enough time to get our Journey North butterflies ready in time but our summative assessment for this unit will be a reading & matching exercise similar to the activity they already did.

Here's a great video (and authentic resource!) to use too. I have my novices listen for key words and it works great for differentiating for my heritage speakers. 

Do you teach any fairy tales? What resources do you use? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What's your name game for kindergarten

Fellow Spanish teacher, Emily, here in Lexington recently emailed me with a great game for kindergarten.

I tried a new game this year and the kids have really loved it and we were able to speak in Spanish for the entire game. Thought I’d share. It’s so simple, but great.

Have students in a circle/desks/you could even do this in small groups once they get the hang of it.

Call on someone by asking ¿Cómo te llamas? They answer with Me llamo ___.

Whole class tell them Adios ____.

Cover them with a bandana or I used  a Spanish flag.

Whole class asks ¿Dónde está? ¿Dónde está? Until student pulls the flag off and the class shouts ¡Hola ____!

I demonstrated with my stuffed animal and myself so they wouldn’t feel silly about covering their heads. It is so simple, but I’m telling you their belly laughs are precious and they were all speaking in Spanish and loving it.

I played it this week with my kindergarten classes and like Emily's students we had a great time. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Proficiency Level Pyramid

I have never done a really good job of explaining proficiency levels to my students. One of my goals this year was to make sure my kiddos understood the process of learning a language. I didn't want any of them to get frustrated because they couldn't speak Spanish fluently after a month.

The Chinese and Japanese teachers in our district have these awesome illustrations where students "climb" the Great Wall of China or Mount Fuji from novice low up to intermediate.  But us Spanish teachers didn't have anything nearly as cool and culturally relevant.  So this summer I decided to make a proficiency level pyramid using Chichen Izta in Mexico.

I introduced it to my fourth and fifth grade this past week and they loved it! I printed one large one in color to put on my bulletin board and each student got a half sheet in black and white to keep in their folders. I explained that even in English we aren't born speaking in complete sentences. We are at the top of the pyramid in English but at the bottom in Spanish working our way up. 

We also looked at pictures of the real Chichen Itza and reviewed the taco rubric from Mundo de Pepita.  Both the pyramid and the taco rubric really gave them good images to associate with their learning in Spanish class. And I know it was working when they asked me how they could get to intermediate.  Do you talk about proficiency levels with your students? How do you explain them? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Get the large version here.

Get the half sheet student copies here.

Clip art by Phillip Martin - check out more great clip art here.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New year - New schedule

I just started my fourth year and I'm officially OUT of the Specials rotation. I will see every class EVERY OTHER DAY!!! 2nd-5th grade will get 25 minutes every other day and Kinder-1st will get 15 min. That's 75 min in 6 days for the older grades.

How did I get more time? By advocating. By showing off what my students CAN DO. With a little help from the KY Dept of Education and their new World Language Program Review that requires all schools to provide WL instruction. By getting creative with the schedule and being willing to go back on the cart if I needed to. By getting lucky in that our population is getting smaller so we have less classrooms. By simply asking for more time. By being patient and flexible the last 3 years.

Am I at the recommended 90 minutes per week? No, but I'm getting there. I'd be there if I worked at a smaller school but with 24 classes and only 1 of me it's hard to get to that number. The good news is that we are headed in the right direction.

Only 15 minutes for K-1 does mean, however, going back on the cart. (I get to keep my room for the older grades.) Señora Speedy is making a grand comeback with a new face and speech bubble. As much as I love having my own room I have to admit I missed Speedy. Now I get to have the best of both worlds.

I'm so excited to start my new schedule on Monday. What are you excited about for this upcoming year?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Scholarships for teachers to travel abroad

I spent almost 5 weeks of my summer this year in Spain! Thanks to a scholarship from SCOLT I was able to study for 3 weeks at Estudio Sampere in Madrid, Spain.

My scholarship included 3 hours of classes during the week and lodging with a Spanish family who not only provided a bed but also breakfast and dinner, as well as laundry once a week. It didn't include airfare, the extra week and a half I tacked on to travel around, or the extra activities the school provided (like weekend excursions to Toledo, Segovia, and Avila.) Sampere was a great place to study - right next to Retiro Park, lots of activities outside of class, as well as great teachers and staff who all insisted on all Spanish all the time. I really enjoyed my time there and would recommend Estudio Sampere to anyone.

I had two great teachers and awesome classmates at Estudio Sampere in Madrid

I spent my time speaking so much Spanish. Not that I don't speak Spanish during the year but the level of language I use with my novice learners is not sufficient to maintain or raise my own level. Three weeks of intensive classes certainly helped and I was able to learn lots of colloquialisms that make me sound less of a guiri or gringa and more like a fluent speaker.

In addition to all the Spanish I was speaking I got to

1. Visit lots of cool places (Toledo, Segovia, Avila, Barcelona, Tarragona, Cordoba, El Escorial, in addition to thoroughly exploring Madrid.)

2. See amazing art (I went to the Prado twice, attended a lecture on Guernica, discovered Sorolla, developed an obsession with both Velazquez and Picasso's Las Meninas, and was inspired by Miro.)

3. Take part in cultural experiences that I can't wait to share with my students (Castellars building their human towers in Tarragona, cooking classes, huge annual water fight called La Batalla Naval de Vallecas, a live flamenco show, buying cookies from cloistered nuns on a wooden turntable.)

4. Collect books, games, puzzles, take pictures, and other miscellania for use in my classroom this upcoming year.

5. Meet, hang out, and get inspired by other Spanish teachers in my course.

A weekend excursion to Segovia

All of the following organizations have scholarships each year - I highly recommend looking into applying for next summer.

SCOLT - Southern Conference on Language Teaching

CSCTFL - Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

NECTFL - Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

SWCOLT - Southwest Conference on Language Teaching

ACTFL - American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

AATSP - American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese

School starts for me in less than 2 weeks. I'm sad to see summer go but I have to say it's certainly been memorable!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Reflections on the year

I'm done for the year!!! And what a year it was - it was both awesome and challenging.  I kept and refined certain things while I let others drop to the wayside (sometimes on purpose and other times unintentionally and with regret.)

90% TL - It didn't always happen but for the most part I met my 90% goals. It's become a habit and with some classes it was even 100% TL most days. I had several little "policemen" in kindergarten and in 3rd grade whose favorite phrase was ¡No inglés!  Only my new students seemed to freak out - the other kids are so used to it. My heart burst one day when a brand new student complained about not being able to understand and another student said, "It gets a LOT easier and we always do fun stuff in here."

It's not hard to pinpoint the times I didn't use enough TL - rowdy 5th grade classes at the end of the day when I was tired and they were tired. And specifically the entire month of February when I suffer from SAD. My Classdojo contest did seem to motivate students but it lost steam after awhile. I think next year I will wait and implement it when me and the kids need it the most.  A shorter contest in the dead of winter should add enough excitement and motivation to get us through that tough spot.

Spiraling - I can't stress enough how important this has become in my classroom. The more they see the different structures in different contexts the more comfortable they will be using them. I used to teach things in isolation and then move on but this last year I have seen so much more growth from students when they are constantly seeing/hearing/using things over and over.  Next year I want to continue to build on that prior knowledge even when introducing new material.

Assessments - It was still a struggle. I did do more assessments this year but I don't know that they were very meaningful. I'm still trying to find a way to do this in a way that benefits the students' learning (i.e. I can give good feedback) but doesn't become unmanageable for me. With 600+ students it's not an easy task. Although I've had some great conversations lately with awesome teachers about how to handle so MANY students - A colleague talked about si se puede sheets that she would have kids bubble in when she heard them using the TL - love this because it makes the kids do the hard work of finding their name and recording data. Another colleague put the target questions for the year up on the board and did a pre&post test at the beginning and end of the year. I love the idea of having that focus up where both me and the kids see what we're working towards. He said the kids loved seeing their progress from the beginning to the end of the year and only 1 major summative assessment at the end of the year would be totally manageable.

Communicating with families- I did send more "stuff" home this year - speaking rubrics & assessments, stamp pages, & coloring pages with links to the videos we were watching in class. My goal next year is a newsletter every 2 months with vocabulary, links to videos, & game ideas to play at home.  Already this summer I have created a template and written the first few editions (that way in the craziness of the start of the year it's already done and just needs to be printed & copied.)

Now I'm ready for summer break. I plan on resting, planning for next year, and spending 5 weeks in Spain shopping, studying, and playing tourist. What are your summer plans?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The cart as advocacy

Have you just learned that next year you won't have a room? You have to fit all of your papers, props, technology, and other teaching materials on a cart? After you have a good cry (and possibly a large drink) it's time to look at the positive side. Being on a cart is a great opportunity to show off and advocate for your program.

Don't get me wrong - I loved having a room this year but I'm just as grateful that I spent the first two years at my school on a cart. Here's why...

Teachers all over the building could SEE and HEAR what I was doing with students in Spanish class. If they chose to stay in their room during Spanish class they got first-hand knowledge of what was going on in my program. 

They told me things like, "Wow! The kids are learning so much more Spanish this year." (Not true - but the previous Spanish teacher had a room so they never heard the kids speaking Spanish.) 

They told their students, "I just love hearing you guys speak Spanish! I wish I had had Spanish when I was your age." 

They emailed my principal and wrote things like, "I just want to let you know that Ms. K is doing a super job."

And it wasn't just teachers who were more aware - parent volunteers working in the rooms also got first-hand experience with their child's Spanish class. (And parents that volunteer are also the ones that serve on SBDM committees, PTA, and email the principal & superintendent when their child's language program is on the chopping block.)

All that exposure and all I had to do was my regular teaching gig. There are other ways to get similar exposure - I sent my administration videos and pictures of what we were doing in Spanish class. This year I invited teachers and administrators to certain lessons (the ones with food) and my goal next year is to send home a regular newsletter to parents and families but being on a cart is its own special advocacy. 

Are there challenges to teaching off a cart? Oh yes! But are there some special benefits too? MOST DEFINITELY.  So mourn your room (if you were lucky to have one to start with) but then buck up and realize what a great opportunity to show off your program to teachers and parents teaching off a cart will be. #ThatsHowIRoll

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Yo veo algo azul

One of the first things I teach my kindergartners is their colors in Spanish. Mostly this is because they learn colors in English when they first get to school so it's great for reinforcing core content. Plus they LOVE the song El gusano Tutu. 

But you can't just teach the colors once and hope it sticks. I come back to them over and over again. With the Calico Spanish curriculum there is a new color with each chapter. One of the games we play is Yo veo or I spy. I keep it easy with Yo veo algo (insert color). The game is simple - Srtudent 1 thinks of something in the room in the target color and says "Yo veo algo (azul, amarillo, verde, cafe, o rojo.) Student 2 guesses by saying ¿Eso? and pointing. Continue until Student 2 guesses correctly and then switch. 

I would introduce the new color, play the game with the whole group and then let students play with a partner for 3-5 minutes. Then we would move onto the next item on the agenda. We would play about every other class so students really got into the routine of it. 

As a treat at the end of the year I found I Spy images online (just do a Google search to find LOTS of images), printed, and laminated them. Then I handed them out and let them play. I have posters and other displays that have colors of them for reference if the students needed them. I used them first as a fast finisher but I hope to use them more regularly next year since the students really seemed to enjoy playing with them. They also work well as a backup game in case your projector breaks or the electricity in your building goes out (yes, that happened today!) 

The best part is that these can be used in variety of ways for different levels- ask students to look for specific vocabulary (I tried to find images that included various animals so they could use that vocabulary as well) or instead of guessing with just "That?" you could have them name the item in the target language. It might even be fun to have students make their own. 

So that's how we play I spy. Spanish Playground also has a great article on the song Veo, Veo. I'm hoping to teach it to my students next year now that they have a good foundation. Do you play I spy? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A quick and easy way to practice emotions

This year learned emotions and how to answer the question ¿Cómo estás?  Even though we have moved on we still practice our emotions when we sing. For example, when we do our calendar routine we sing a quick song about the days of the week from Basho & Friends. (The video is 4 minutes long so once students know the tune we just sing it acappella.)

Before we start I ask one student ¿Cómo estás? If they answer Estoy bien then we sing with big smiles. If they answer Estoy cansado then we sing with lots of big yawns. We sing Estoy enojado with angry voices and some foot stomping. The great thing is that it works for any song you might be using in class and you are constantly reviewing emotions.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mis Perritos

I've mentioned it before but I love how the Calico Spanish introduces a new number, color, and animal with each chapter. Rather than presenting them all at once and then not seeing them again for awhile my kiddos get a new word each chapter and then we review the ones we've learned before. And because there is just one animal I can find great authentic resources dedicated to just that animal.

My first graders in this chapter are working on el perro and the color rojo. Naturally this brought to mind Clifford but most of those books are above their level so instead we wrote a descriptions of Clifford.  My students could use the words rojo, negro, grande, no pequeno, and tengo hambre. I helped out by writing them in complete sentences and then we read them together.

Then we read the book Perritos by Sandra Boynton. I love her books for class! The language is easy and perfect for novice learners and the pictures are cute and funny. The students got really into this one as each perro barks a little differently (it also got really loud!)

The second book we read was Corre, Perro, Corre by P.D. Eastman. This book came with my Calico Spanish curriculum and it is AMAZING. There is so much good vocabulary and it's easy to understand. As I read I ask students to find things in the pictures for me. We practice arriba and abajo with our bodies and we answer if we like the dog's hat or not each time. 

I also showed the students these cute pictures I found on Facebook. They know the verbs nadar and saltar so we could describe the pictures fairly well. We also talked about the colors of the dogs and counted them.

Finally we made these cute perro headbands and went outside to play Corran, perro, corran (also known as red light, green light.)  Basically we acted out three of the pages from the book - a great extension activity to do at the end of the year when the weather is nice and the students are squirrely. You can find the animal cut-outs here. 

Coming soon - a collection of all the animal resources I have used. In the meantime checkout my Pinterest board. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Building a burrito

In 3rd-5th grade we've been working on "I can list some foods I like and dislike" and "I can order at a restaurant." We started by watching the same Chocolate video I used in 1st grade. Then we read the book Build a Burrito. Before we started we brainstormed what different kinds of foods are in a burrito. Then we practiced telling a partner if we liked or disliked them. As I read them the book, which is a bilingual book with very simple phrases, the students participated by saying if they liked or didn't like before I turned the page.

After reading the book we practiced as a whole class with a felt burrito I found at the Dollar Spot at Target. Then I passed out paper burrito sets I had made with construction paper and laminated. Each piece was labeled so students could remember how to say the different foods in Spanish. One person ordered a burrito, using the phrases Me gusta and No me gusta and the other person assembled it. 

The second time we played I made half the class burrito vendors and the other half very hungry customers.  They practiced the following conversation. 

Vendor: Hola. ¿Cómo estás?
Customer: Tengo mucha hambre. Me gusta _____. No me gusta _____.*
Or they could point and ask for each food item using por favor. Vendor builds the burrito.
Vendor: Dos dólares por favor.
Customer hands over the money.
Vendor: Gracias.
Customer: (Takes a big bite) Hmmm delicioso. 
Vendor: Adiós.

These sets took a lot of time to make (and to be honest they look a lot more like tacos than burritos...) but a very helpful paraeducator and some 5th grade students made the work go faster. And it was worth it to hear my fifth grade students who at this point in the year are mostly unpleasant tell me that they had fun in Spanish class. My third graders who are always pleasant squealed when I revealed we were playing with fake money. 

How do you teach foods? Share in the comments below!

*I realize that Me gustaría would be more appropriate in this situation but we stuck with Me gusta/No me gusta.  Because of time constraints I didn't want to introduce a new structure. Next year when we do our food unit I will introduce I would like versus I like.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Playing with blocks to practice colors

We've been playing with blocks in kindergarten. Kindergarten is so much harder than it used to be. They get so little time to play. Earlier this year I made a resolution to let kids play more in class - so after reading Pinta Ratones we got out the blocks. I got this idea from one of my favorite blogs This is How We Learn Spanish. 

The first round we sang our color song and then I just let them loose. They were supposed to say what colors they were using to build their towers as they did, which some of them did and some of them didn't. I walked around the room and asked them what they had and most of them could tell me. They loved building them tall and then watching them fall. Some of them figured out they could go taller if they built a wider base.  I got hugs and heard, "this was SO much fun!" as they went out the door.

Listening to hear what colors they needed to build their towers.

The second class we worked in pairs and did a listening exercise. I would tell them what colors they needed to build their towers. "Necesitan dos amarillos. Necesitan un verde." They took turns and helped each other pick the correct colors - great for interpretive listening and social skills.

The third and fourth class I wanted them to do the talking so I built a tower and hid it behind a screen. One kiddo came up and took a look then went back and told their partner what to build in Spanish. The first class they managed about half in Spanish and half in English. The second class they had a better grasp of what to do and almost all of them did it entirely in Spanish. 

Only a few more classes left in the year! What are you doing to finish out strong? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Estoy enfermo - Necesito un doctor

My first graders learned body parts earlier in the year with the video Adiós Monstruo (see the post here!) We are spiraling back to body parts and visiting the doctor.

Target vocabulary: 

¿Cómo te llamas?  Me llamo ______.
¿Cómo estás?  Estoy enfermo/a.
¿(Body part) bien o mal?
Me duele(n) (body part).
Necesito mirar en (body part).
Necesito escuchar. (to their heart)
Necesitas medicina/curita/inyección.
¡No me gustan las inyecciones!

This may look like a lot but the bolded words are phrases they have seen before. This unit was a chance for them to see/use them again but in a different context. The "necesito mirar/escuchar" is how I give them directions before we watch a video or read a book together so this was a great opportunity for them to see it used differently.

I first introduced the new vocabulary and scenario with my puppet Rafael la rana. I had individual students come up to the front and treat poor Rafael. Throughout the next couple of classes we "treated" either Rafael or another student, each time practicing chorally as a group the new phrases.

Finally, we got out ALL the doctor toys and everyone got a chance to be the doctor or patient. Each doctor got their own toy stethoscope (thanks to a stash of old toys I found on Ebay!) various tools like blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, needles, and otoscopes. They also got a patient intake form to take their history and record their prescription for either medicine, a band-aid, or a shot. My little doctors LOVED giving shots.

I got all this for $25 on Ebay!

I put these in sheet protectors and gave the kids a clipboard, a dry erase markers and a tissue.

We've played it several times now, taking turns switching who is the doctor and who is the patient. Their language production started out dicey but the more they play the better they get. And the best part is they hardly know they're learning Spanish.

You can get the patient intake form here.

How do you teach body parts or "me duele"? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Getting EVERYONE talking

Sometimes I go to workshops and I come away with BIG ideas. And sometimes I come away with smaller ideas. Small but not unimportant. Often these slight tweaks to my teaching make a BIG impact.

I've made one such tweak since attending a 2 day workshop with Dr. Helena Curtain. During the workshop she had us make clock partners. At certain points we would have to walk around the room and have a short conversation with our 3:00 partner then switch and talk to our 7:00 partner. At the end of each conversation she had tell our partner, "Thank you, partner. I really enjoyed talking with you. Goodbye."  Or at our tables we might finish up with "du bist intelligent partner. Helena ist super intelligent." 

Now I could see the pre-chosen partners working really well in a middle or high school class where you saw the same students every day but not so practical in my class. However, it got me thinking about how I have kids talk in class. We do partner talk with a mix of Whole Brain Teaching and Kagan techniques. And I have the students pat themselves on the back and say "muy bien" when we mark something off the schedule for the day. But I realized that a LOT of the time I have kids just sitting at their tables or on the carpet talking to the same people every time. When I asked questions I would just call on one student at a time while everyone listened (or probably more likely daydreamed.)

So how to fix it so EVERYONE is engaged and talking?

- My afternoon classes are wild. So even though I don't have them have clock partners I do have them stand up and walk around the room to find two partners to ask ¿Cómo estás? rather than having them talk to their shoulder and face partner every time. Already I am seeing better behavior with just that little bit of movement at the beginning of class.

- I'm trying to design things so that EVERY student is speaking during class - not just me and not just one of them. When we do calendar, they talk with their partner and decide the day. I call on someone. Then I tell them to tell their partner the correct answer. Most of them had the correct answer before but instead of me calling on just one person they all get to say it not once but TWICE! At the end I tell them to tell their partner, "Eres inteligente amigo." And because I think it's hilarious, "Amigo, ¡Ms. K es super inteligente!"

- We've been doing a short poem in kindergarten about two monkeys eating a banana. I used to have two students come up and act it out while we said it. After the workshop I made a class set of laminated bananas. Now everyone gets to act it out while we say the poem together.

- Instead of saying muy bien to themselves, now they turn and tell their partner, "¡Muy bien, amigo!" or "Gracias, amigo." A very small tweak but helps practice socialization skills.

- I reviewed HOW we talk to partners in English (then later switched to Spanish): We make eye contact. We smile. We use college talk. College talk comes from Whole Brain Teaching. Students are not only supposed to be speaking in complete sentences but supporting their ideas with details. Now my novice learners can't really use college talk in the TL but it does encourage them to ask follow up questions like ¿Por qué? My third graders love to answer "¿Cómo estás?" with "Estoy enojado" or "Estoy triste." When their partner asks ¿Por qué? they make up some crazy answer in English like "porque Olivia pushed me on the playground!"

So my small tweaks are helping to make sure that everyone is engaged and talking in the target language more - so important since every minute counts! I know it's super basic but it's so easy to overlook. How do you get everyone talking in your classes? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pinta Ratones

We have been studying colors in kindergarten. At the beginning of the year we sang the song El gusano Tutu.

After learning about El Ratón Pérez, we read the book Mouse Paint or Pinta Ratones. And then we reviewed the story with storytelling props. (You can get them here!)  They had read this book earlier in the year in English with our art teacher so it was a great review.

Finally, we mixed colors like los ratones except that instead of using paint, we used food coloring in ranch dressing and instead of paint brushes we had pretzel sticks. I quickly modeled how to mix the ranch with the pretzel sticks and we reviewed the colors in Spanish. Before they were allowed to eat I asked them ¿Cómo estás? and they answered ¡Tengo hambre! Then we got down to the serious business of mixing our colors and then eating our masterpieces. 

I found this idea on pinterest. And based on the hugs I got as they filed out the door I'm going to call this a #pinterestwin.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

El Ratón Pérez

My littler kiddos - especially kindergartners - LOVE to tell me all about how many teeth they have lost, which teeth are loose, and how much the Tooth Fairy has brought them. After reading Mundo de Pepita's blog post on authentic tangible culture for children, I was determined to use that enthusiasm to tell me about their teeth and direct it towards an authentic cultural learning experience.

First I read them the book "The Tooth Fairy Meets Ratón Pérez". This book is in English but it's a great introduction to the topic and includes several Spanish phrases. At the end we compared and contrasted the Tooth Fairy and El Ratón Pérez. 

I also purchased Mundo de Pepita's printable book and activity pack. It comes with a cute printable book, storytelling props, tooth posters where you record students' who have lost teeth, certificates, and tooth holders for kids who lose their teeth at school.  

Over the course of several weeks, we worked on the phrases "Tengo un diente flojo" and "Se me cayó un diente."  I wrote the names of any student who could tell me in Spanish that they had lost a tooth.   We also read the book "El diente de Javi" and acted it out using the storytelling props. They LOVED it! 

I also put a little puerta de Ratón Pérez near the door. Students love to get down on the floor and investigate. They say Hola and Adios to him as they leave and it's been a great conversation starter with the older students who have asked me why is there a mouse door on the wall. You can find the door here

This mini unit was also a great introduction to the book Pinta Ratones (Mouse Paint) which we are reading as a review for colors (more on that later!)

Do you teach about El Ratón Pérez? What other culture do you use with your elementary students? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Deep and rich activities for learners

I used Languages and Children: Making the Match*** by Curtain and Dahlberg in my certification program. Then in my first month of teaching, I attended a workshop at the KWLA conference with Helena Curtain. I was a stressed out first year teacher who had no clue how to get my students to listen to me in English let alone in the target language. I wanted to do 90% TL but I just didn't see how it was possible when I was crying in the bathroom after an hour with third grade. As the "lone ranger" I wasn't getting a lot of support. (Do any of us teaching elementary school get the support we need?) However, by the time I left that short workshop Helena had given me hope that I could do what needed to be done. She is truly one of the kindest, most encouraging teachers I have met.  So when I saw she was coming to our district to do a 2 day workshop I was pumped.

The main theme of our two days together was giving our learners what they need. And what do learners need? They need activities that are deep and rich. 

Helena gave us four guidelines to ask ourselves when planning our lessons.

Ask yourself is this activity....

1. Intrinsically motivating? Will the kids be excited by this? Does it establish a context for the new language?

2. Cognitively engaging? What other content/area/skills does this connect with? Can you connect it to math, science, arts & humanities, or economics?

3. Culturally connected? Does this connect to the target culture?

4. Communicatively purposeful? Does this encourage interpersonal communication and build proficiency among ALL students?

She stressed that not every activity needs to hit all four points - although they should hit at least two. Personally, I try to make sure that all of my activities are communicatively purposeful since I have so little time with my kiddos.

Did I get my textbook signed? Yes, yes I did. And a photo!!!

What do you think of these four guidelines? What do you try to keep in mind when planning your mlessons? Share in the comments below! And there's more to come from our two day workshop.

*** The 5th ed. is titled Languages and Learners: Making the Match. AND I'm honored to have a picture from Señora Speedy included!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Strategies for Lining Up in the Target Language

I don't get to see my students nearly as much as I would like, only 25 minutes twice in six days. So I try to maximize EVERY moment I have with them. We  practice vocabulary as we line up and while we wait for the classroom teacher to pick them up. Because I love a good routine, we always say 1, 2 adios and then I dismiss students either by table or by rows from the carpet. My carpet has rows of different colors so my students are always practicing their colors as they line up at the end of class. My tables have flags from Spanish speaking countries hanging over them so my older students are constantly reviewing their country names. I always give the directions for the end of class in the target language.

How they get into line is important too. My K-2 students we learn a new animal in each new chapter. So far we have el pez, el mono, y la rana. Students will "nadan" into line like fish or "saltan" into line like monkeys or frogs. Last week my second graders noisily lined up like monkeys. I reminded them that, "Podemos ser monos en la clase de español pero somos como los peces en el pasillo." They quietly swam out the door. When we did our flamenco unit students danced into line.

Many times, we have to wait on the classroom teacher. Or for a traffic jam (all the Special Area classes are in the same hallway and it can get clogged up as one grade level leaves and another makes it way to Specials) to clear. While we wait, I like to play Diego Dice (like Simon Says) or Teléfono while we wait. Students must be quiet in order to play the game and we are still practicing Spanish.

Other times, I will get out flashcards and go down the line quizzing students. This strategy also serves as a very quick formative assessment. When we did Days of the Week I had students play a game where students had to say the days in the correct order. We went down the line and each student had to say only one day, forcing them to listen carefully. If they said the wrong day or took too long they had to sit down in the line. My more observant students rocked this game once they realized there is a poster with the days on it right by my door.

And my final strategy for lining up - give them something authentic and interesting to look at in the target language by the door. I have lots of memes and cartoons posted by my door that even 100+ days into school still captivate their interest. As they learn new vocabulary they notice and understand more of the pictures. One student last week asked me if one of the pictures was new. "No," I said, "You just noticed it because now you know that word."

There's also some Kid President just because I love Kid President. :-)
 What are your strategies for lining up in the TL? Share in the comments below or on twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!