Tuesday, September 27, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More authentic & varied listening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

School Supplies Go Fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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