I know that I feel like this every year, but I can never believe how fast the summer flies by! Tomorrow we have an institute day and the following day will be my first day with my new students. Last year was my first year teaching middle school Spanish and there were so many times where I thought to myself "Oh no...I should have done this differently!" This year I'm excited to learn from my mistakes and make this year even better than the last.
Last year I started class off with an Instagram photo booth for the first day (read more about last year's first day plans here), but this year I wanted to shake things up! For the first day of school I will show the students a power point introducing myself with pictures of my summer. While I am explaining the pictures the students will be playing "strip" bingo. I will write high-frequency words from my presentation on the whiteboard and students have to fill in each of the five squares on their bingo strip with a different word. When they hear me say a word that is on the end of their bingo strip they get to tear it off. Whoever tears off all of the words first is the winner. This is a great game because it helps the students stay engaged while they are listening.
On the second day of school I will let the students pick a Spanish name and then we will play Speedball to help learn everyone's name and build our classroom community. I got this game from the 'Mis Clases Locas' blog which has some really great ideas for the beginning of the year. After playing speedball I am going to give my students a survey to fill out about their summer (you can download the 'vacaciones de verano' survey below.) Each student will walk around the room with a clipboard and paper and ask their classmates the questions on the survey. If a student answers 'yes' to one of the questions he/she signs the box containing the question. More advanced students can give a full response using the prompts at the bottom of the square. The object of the game is to get a different name in each square. Once the students are done filling in all of the squares we play bingo! To play bingo I randomly call out names and if a student has a square with the name that I call out they mark it with an 'X'. If someone gets a bingo they have to read the answers back to me. For example, "María fue a las montañas, Juan comió en un restaurante, etc."
Last year I created my syllabus on Piktochart. This year I went onto their website and revised my syllabus to include more detailed course goals and information about homework and grading. I copied my course goals from the syllabus on the Creative Language Class blog and I copied the section about proficiency from a syllabus on a different blog that I can't find now (if you recognize where this section came from let me know--I'd love to cite the blog here.) You can download a copy of my 7th grade syllabus below (the 8th grade syllabus is the same except the novels are Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos & La Llorona de Mazatlán.)
What are your favorite activities to use during the first weeks of class?
The end of the school year is rapidly approaching! My department recently shared a collection of activities and games that are helping to keep our students engaged during these last few weeks of school. The list below contains a few go-to games that can be used to keep your students engaged during the end of the year.
Please feel free to comment below with any fun activities or games that are helping you push through the end of the year!
Last year my fourth graders read Brandon Brown quiere un perro by Carol Gaab. This book is excellent for beginners--while the total word count is 4400, the unique word count is just 100. I know what you are thinking, and trust me I was thinking the same thing last year. How could a book with only 100 unique words be interesting? I don't know how Carol does it, but the book is both captivating and relatable.
Although my students did a great job reading the book, I was not completely prepared to teach it to them. I waited too late in the year to start reading and ended up in a race to finish the book before the end of the school year. This year will be different! I am going to start reading the book earlier in the year and pre-teach more of the vocabulary. My plan is to start reading the book with my third and fourth graders after spring break, and until then I am backwards planning from the book. To do this I looked at the teacher's guide which breaks down each chapter into new vocabulary and cognates (this guide is a must have if you are teaching this book- it is full of great activities and assessments). My first step for backwards planning was taking the words that were new to my students and grouping them together into stories. The plan is for the students to have seen the new vocabulary structures before they start reading the book.
A colleague and I grouped the following structures together:
Next, I picked a student who had a birthday coming up and asked them what they wanted their classmates to make them for their birthday. I put prewritten statements into the Caja mágica and had the students read them to the birthday boy. For example: La clase hace un sándwich de espárrago para tu cumpleaños. La clase hace una sopa de ojos para tu cumpleaños. La clase hace una pizza de cucarachas para tu cumpleaños. The birthday boy would then respond with "¡Qué asco!" My students were excited to see what idea would come out of the box next, which provided me with a compelling way to circle the word hace.
During the next class period I read a book that I created on Storybird (I was inspired by Cynthia Hitz's blog post about using Storybird and by all of the different artwork on the Storybird site). The only issue I had with Storybird was that when I tried to make my story public I received a message stating that stories written in languages other than English cannot be made public. It looks like the link is working now, but feel free to comment or email me if you have any issues. Read the story "Un cumpleaños terrible" here.
Food is one of my students' favorite topics, so it is no surprise that they love this lesson. I introduced tiene sed (he/she is thirsty) after my students know bebe (he/she drinks). Both of these structures are action words, so they naturally lend themselves well to Total Physical Response (TPR). Last year, Jason Fritze gave a workshop in my district and watching him do TPR with bebe and tiene sed was amazing. One of the techniques that he used was to break the class into two different groups (he named each group after a Spanish speaking country) and give each group different TPR commands. This helped the students stay engaged because not only did they have to listen carefully to the commands, but they also had to pay attention to who should be doing them.
After introducing tiene sed through TPR I projected pictures of different pairs of drinks (one normal and one that is not normally considered a drink such as salsa, tabasco, or shampoo). I had the students pretend to be thirsty and asked them to pick one beverage to drink based on the two options I presented. I kept a class tally of their responses and we were able to compare and contrast the results of all of the classes. This activity had everyone laughing together as a class which was great (it was also inspired by Jason Fritze).
Next, I gave my students a survey to find out what their classmates drink. I call these surveys encuestas and I have been using them with my students for years. On Martina Bex's blog she refers to this activity as a "people search". I agree with Martina that encuestas or "people searches" are one of the fastest and lowest-anxiety output activities that you can use in your classroom. I only use these activities when I feel my students have heard a structure enough to truly acquire it (no output beyond the student's level of acquisition) .
Hay un vampiro. El vampiro tiene una cavidad entonces va al dentista. En la oficina hay un chico. El chico tiene sed y bebe Coke. El vampiro está irritado con el chico y grita. El vampiro se levanta y camina despacio a la puerta. La dentista se llama Dr. Helsing. El vampiro abre la puerta y está muy nervioso. Cierra la puerta. Se sienta en la silla. El vampiro está nervioso y grita. Dr. Helsing es muy guapa y el vampiro está feliz. El vampiro abre la boca y Dr. Helsing tiene una medicina especial. ¡Pero hay un problema! El vampiro tiene sed. El vampiro quiere la sangre de Dr. Helsing. ¿El vampiro bebe la sangre de Dr. Helsing? Dr. Helsing se sienta en su silla. El vampiro se levanta y camina despacio a Dr. Helsing. De repente, el chico abre la puerta. El vampiro se cae. ¡El fin!
The rules of the encuesta are simple: Each square can only have one name in it and you can use each name once. I give the students a clipboard and a pencil and they walk around asking their classmates the questions in the various squares. When a classmates answers Sí to one of the questions they have that person sign the box. For my pre-literate learners I include an image in each box along with the words. I usually only spend 5-10 minutes on this activity and then I have the students sit on the rug and share their answers with me. I ask questions such as ¿Quién bebe Coke? and students must look at their paper and tell me the name that they have written down in that square. I will then record the answer on the encuesta that is projected on the Smarboard. Verifying this information with the student and asking for more details provides me with more opportunities for Personalized Questions and Answers (PQA).
Lastly, I show my students the MovieTalk (if you are unfamiliar with this technique you can read more about it here). The video is called "Vampire's Crown" but I call it El vampiro va al dentista.
This MovieTalk focuses on the following structures:
This animated short lends itself well to creating drama. Every time the vampire gets close to the dentist I pause the video and ask the kids if he is going to drink her blood. By the end of the video the students are cringing because I have built up so much anticipation. They love it! Keep in mind that I showed this video to my 1st graders. You could easily add more details to the script to make it appropriate for older students.