I just finished teaching a unit surrounding the documentary Living on One Dollar and I cannot recommend this documentary enough! During this unit my students were captivated by the lives of the families living in the small town of Peña Blanca, Guatemala. We had meaningful classroom discussions about poverty, clean water, necessities vs. desires and education.
Below are some the the activities that I used with my classes during this unit.
After watching the documentary my students brainstormed ways that they could be the catalyst for global change. The website Living on One has some great resources for these discussions, as well as current information about the families in the documentary.
I'm completely obsessed with Bomba Estéreo's new song 'Soy yo'!
I originally found out about the song through Kara Jacobs' awesome blog. I used Kara's story as a starting point, but I changed the language to better fit the needs of my 7th graders. After I wrote the story I took screen shots of the video and added text to the images (at this point my students didn't know that the images were from a music video.) You can download a pdf version of the story below.
After reading the story together in class the students watched the video for música miércoles. It was so fun to see the surprised looks on their faces when they saw that the story we had read was actually a music video!
After watching the video we played "Who would say it?". I gave students quotes and they had to decide which character would say them. Below are a few examples that I used during the activity.
I was inspired by Carol Gaab's Higher Order Thinking (HOT) presentation at Comprehensible Midwest for this activity. Students have to use inference to determine if Las chicas or Carmen would say each quote. These quotes also lead to great PQA (personalized questions and answers) discussions. Do you know someone that looks at you with a lot of attitude? Why? How do you react?
Students also created a comic documenting what Carmen did later that night after she went home with her dad. After writing their ideas in the four squares of the comic, the students illustrated their work. When they finished creating their comics I posted them around the room and we had a gallery walk where the students walked around the room and read their classmate's work. If you are trying to target specific vocabulary words you can ask that they include those words in the comic, or you can give them more freedom and have them use whatever words they choose.
I'm excited to read Bianca nieves y los 7 toritos by Carrie Toth this year with my 8th graders! In my backwards planning I read through the novel and pulled out all of the structures/words that I need to pre-teach to my students. I found a great video about guinea pigs in Ecuador that I used with the following structures:
I showed the video using a MovieTalk format, pausing and asking the students a lot of questions while we were watching. The video sparked some great conversations in my class. Do these guinea pigs suffer? Does María (main woman in the video) actually care for the guinea pigs with love and affection? After watching the video I gave the students an infographic (inspired by this infographic, but modified with comprehensible language). Students worked in pairs to read the infographic and answer comprehension questions.
I'm still feeling inspired by Carol Gaab's workshop at Comprehensible Midwest about using higher level thinking skills in the classroom. I gave the students the following statements that they had to put them in a venn diagram, comparing and contrasting María with themselves. It was great to see the students realize how much they had in common with María.
Next, we played Possible or Probable? (posible o probable), also inspired by Carol Gaab. I projected the statements below one at a time and on their whiteboards the students had to ask wether each statement was possible or probable. I loved this activity because there wasn't a right or wrong answer. It created a platform in class for everyone to express their opinions, but they had to support their answers with information they saw in the video or read in the infographic. It was awesome to see students engage in debates in the target language!
What are some activities you use in class to engage students in higher level thinking?
When I think about teaching cultural lessons I usually come up with a list of excuses that looks something like this:
Who can relate to these excuses? I know that focusing on cultural topics is something that I want to do more of with my students, but I always find reasons not to...until now! At ACTFL I was inspired by Martina Bex's session on teaching language through culture. In her presentation, Martina took us through the steps of how to take a cultural product, practice or perspective and create an entire comprehensible input (CI) friendly unit (did I mention that she also made this process look totally effortless?). I'm taking baby steps, so instead of making an entire unit I created a mini unit that I can finish before winter break.
My mini unit focuses on el Día de los Reyes in Spain. I started the unit by looking at pictures and reading an explanation of the holiday with my students.
El Día de Reyes es una celebración en España. Los niños escriben cartas a los Reyes Magos con una lista de los regalos que quieren. Los Reyes Magos llegan a las casas el 5 de enero. Los Reyes Magos tienen regalos para los niños buenos y carbón para los niños malos. Los Reyes Magos ponen los regalos en los zapatos. El 6 de enero los niños se despiertan y abren los regalos.
Phew! Talk about something that looks easier than it is! Writing a summary that is interesting and comprehensible is tough! It was hard to not include so many of the details that I find interesting about this holiday, but my new mantra for writing is less is more!
After the reading I used MovieTalk to show a short video from Nickelodeon. The video is about the anxiety that one boy feels when he can't find one of his shoes on the night the Reyes are coming. I focused on the following vocabulary structures for this MovieTalk:
After we watched the video we acted out different variations of the video using All the World's a Stage (I narrated the story and all of the students silently acted out what they are hearing). It was fun to think of creative places to make them look for the shoe and to see their reactions when I told them different items were in the box!
My younger students wrote letters to the Reyes Magos. In the letter the students explained how they behaved this year (I had them circle different smiley faces), drew a picture of one item they wanted and signed their name. I shared each of the letters, circling vocabulary words as I went, and finally the students put their letters in an envelope addressed to the Reyes.
If you would rather write the letter as a class here are some great online platforms where you can email a letter to the Reyes.
If your students are too old to write a letter and you are looking for a service project the group 'Reyes Magos de Verdad' is an organization that emails you a letter that a child wrote to the Reyes Magos and asks you to send a gift.
Even though I am still far away from creating a cultural unit as complete as the ones that Martina presented, I am excited to start creating CI lessons that focus more on culture!
I'm sure that all teachers can relate to the craziness of Halloween...the costumes, the classroom parties, and the candy! I've finally learned that it is best to embrace the excitement that comes with this day. Pick activities that will match your student's excitement! Below are some ideas for activities that I do with my students to celebrate Día de los muertos.
We read Rosita y Conchita by Erich Haeger aloud as a class. The book is in Spanish and English but I rewrote the text using simple Spanish that I know my students can understand. Some details of the story are lost when you simplify the text, but the basic plot line stays the same and the language becomes comprehensible for your students. One of the best advantages to rewriting a text is that you can target specific language that each grade level is working on. On a side note, the Kindle version of Rosita y Conchita includes a game where students click and drag items to make their own ofrenda. After reading the book we make ofrendas together on the SmartBoard--so fun!
I also love the book Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston. This book is in English so I rewrote a simplified version of the text in Spanish to make it comprehensible for my students. This book hits on a lot of traditional foods and symbols for Día de los muertos and it is easy to rewrite in simple Spanish for lower level students.
After introducing my students to Día de los muertos we usually do a simple art project to celebrate this special day. My 1st graders use pictures from Día de los muertos celebrations as inspiration to decorate their own skull masks. After decorating the face they cut out the faces (I usually help them cut out the eyes) and tape a popsicle stick at the bottom to make a mask. Below are the templates I use for the masks.
My 2nd graders make skull faces out of paper plates. A co-worker cut out the idea from a magazine and they look awesome! Again, we look at images from Día de los muertos celebrations for inspiration on how to decorate the faces.
The 3rd graders make papel picado. Here are some simple instructions--it is basically the same process as making cutout snowflakes. I usually have my students make 3 or 4 panels and then send the panels home with a string to hang them (I fold a piece of construction paper in half and put the papel picados inside to keep them from getting torn on their journey home). Insider tip: having the students glue at home is key--when they glue in class the tissue paper always manages to get stuck to another student's project, creating a sticky mess.
My 4th graders make calaveras de azúcar. Here is my tried and true recipe. The students decorate with the pre-made cake icing that comes in tubes (I limit each student to only 3 colors of icing in the hopes that it will still resemble a skull when they are finished). We usually spend one day making the skulls and one day decorating them. While my students are waiting to be called up to make/decorate their skulls they complete reading activities on Textivate!
Check out the finished products!
The majority of you have probably already heard about the animated short Día de los muertos. If you haven't then you should watch it right now because it is fabulous for a MovieTalk! In her Día de los muertos packet on Teachers Pay Teachers Martina Bex uses another animated short entitled Día de muertos by Sofía Aviles. Both are great videos, although the second video is probably better suited to older students (I'll let you watch them both to figure out why). After watching the video there are a lot of different activities you could do to reinforce the key vocabulary structures...
What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate Día de los muertos with your students?
The Doritos Goat 4 Sale commercial is great because you can easily target many different high frequency structures depending on what your students are working on. I used this commercial with my first graders who are working on 'busca/ve' and my third and fourth graders who are working on 'estoy'. Instead of a traditional MovieTalk where I pause the video to narrate the story, I took screen shots of the commercial and wrote the story underneath the pictures. This was great because my students were able to read along with me and see the dialogue between the characters. Of course in addition to reading the text I asked comprehension/PQA questions and dramatized the actions to make the story even more comprehensible. After we read the entire story we watched the commercial. I found that some of my student paid closer attention to the story because they were not focused on getting to the end of the video. I also liked this alternative to MovieTalk because my students were reading text along with me (we did some great pop-up grammar).
1st grade story
A Fred le gusta comer Doritos. Fred va a la casa de Francis. Francis tiene una cabra. Francis no quiere la cabra. Francis tiene un secreto...la cabra es muy violenta. La cabra va a la casa de Fred. Fred y la cabra comen Doritos. Fred abre el clóset y busca Doritos. La cabra ve muchos Doritos. La cabra está feliz. La cabra come muchos Doritos, come 42 Doritos. La cabra come más, come 156 Doritos. Fred está irritado. Fred quiere dormir. La cabra abre el clóset y busca Doritos. La cabra no ve Doritos. La cabra está enojada. La cabra abre la puerta y busca a Fred. Fred no quiere la cabra. La cabra cierra la puerta. Fred está enojado.
3rd/4th grade story
Hay un chico que se llama Fred. A Fred le gusta comer Doritos. Un día, Fred dice "Estoy aburrido". Fred recoge sus Doritos y camina a la casa de su amigo.
Once I created the two versions of the commercial I realized that I had a great embedded reading. As Laurie Clarcq explains on her website embedded reading includes three or more scaffolded versions of a text. The scaffolded versions start at the easiest (the baseline story) and slowly progress to more complex and detailed versions of the baseline story. In this unit I used the first grade version of the story as my baseline version of the story. My third and fourth graders were able to read this independently. The third/fourth grade version of the story served as the second version of the reading--this version offered more details and had more complex grammar. Technically I should also make a third even more complex level of the reading, but I've found that my younger students tire of reading the same story. When I discussed this issue with my colleagues they told me that they often change the characters and the details in the harder readings of the story. The first level (the easiest) mirrors a story that you acted out in class, but the subsequent readings have different characters and different (but very similar) problems. Maybe in the third reading there is a sloth that likes to eat tacos--the rest of the story is the same but by making slight character changes the story seems fresh and exciting for some of the younger students.
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.
I found a great animated short called Cade meu Rango? to use for MovieTalk. If you are not familiar with this technique you can read more about it here. This animated short is about a man that falls asleep and every time he wakes up different foods from his fridge are missing. He comes up with plans to try and catch whoever is stealing his food, but there is a great twist ending (I'll let you watch it to see what it is).
There are lots of possibilities with the language that you could use to narrate this animated short. I like that there is a pattern in the actions of the main character because it provides great repetition for the students.
Activities: When you are finished narrating the video here are a few ideas...
1. Take screen shots of the video and have the students sequence the story. I will orally re-tell the story and when students see a picture that matches with what I am saying they sequence the pictures on the SmartBoard. You could also print the pictures out of order and have the students individually sequence the story using numbers.
2. Print pictures from the story and a short description for each picture. Have students match each picture to the correct description.
3. Type the story and have students change 5 details in the story. Then switch stories with a partner and read each other's stories.
4. Type the story into several paragraphs. Have the students draw a picture next to each paragraph to show that they understood what they read.
5. Play the Flyswatter game! Print the screenshots from the movie and orally describe what is happening and have the students swat the picture that you are describing with the flyswatter. This way students are hearing and comprehending entire sentences and not just individual words. First person to hit the correct picture earns a point for their team. This is a great way to play this game because students have to process language chunks and not just individual words.