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!
My colleagues and I have decided we want to move to San Diego! The weather is glorious (mind you it started snowing in back home in Chicago tonight) and the sessions on Comprehensible Input have been incredibly inspiring. It is always so great to see how passionate T/CI teachers are and how willing they are to share their ideas with others. Also, I got to meet my idol Martina Bex today...I've never felt so starstruck. Her presentation on teaching language through culture was awesome!
Below I am posting the PDF version of my presentation "Turning the Page: Reading Short Novels in the Elementary Levels". For those of you that attended my session, thank you for coming! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments that you may have. For those of you that couldn't attend, feel free to look through the slides and reply below with questions or comments. I hope that the presentation provides teachers with strategies to make reading short novels more manageable for the teacher and accessible for the student. Enjoy!
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?
This week in my never ending quest to keep my class novel I stumbled across an amazing tech tool called EDpuzzle. I know that I am probably late to the EDpuzzle party, but that doesn't make me any less excited!
So what is EDpuzzle and how did it completely save my classes this week? EDpuzzle allows you to upload and edit video clips. You can search from clips on YouTube and Vimeo or you can upload your own video. Once the video is uploaded there are endless ways that you can manipulate it to meet your classroom needs.
I found EDpuzzle easy for my students to use. Students either login using their Google email address or they create an EDpuzzle account (all of the students in my district have Google email addresses so I had them login using their Google+ accounts to avoid having to remember yet another password). Once they are logged in they enter a class code--this is a code that EDpuzzle sends the teacher when they create a class. The fact that you can create different folders for each individual class makes it easy to organize your content on EDpuzzle. After the students completed the EDpuzzle assignment I logged in and navigated to the class folder to view each student's individual scores. This was a really quick way for me to assess student comprehension and they felt like they were getting a treat by getting to watch a video. It's a win-win situation!
I created an EDpuzzle video for my Cade meu Rango MovieTalk lesson. My students loved watching the video again and I got great feedback on their comprehension from the multiple choice questions that they answered.
But how can you use EDpuzzle when your lesson doesn't involve a video? This is where you have to get creative...to create a movie from a book I wrote using Storybird I took screenshots of the illustrations in the book. Next I uploaded the screenshots into iMovie to create a video. I added sound effects and music to make the movie more exciting and then uploaded the finished product into EDpuzzle. And there you have it...another way to make re-reading a text novel and engaging for the students!
What tech tools are you using to help keep your class novel and your students engaged?
Teaching with Comprehensible Input (T/CI) is at its peak when you have a group of students that are willing to play "the game". By playing the game I am referring to having a group of students that come up with funny story suggestions, enthusiastically play along with said suggestions, and love to dramatically act out stories. I hit the jackpot with my fourth graders this year! They are constantly raising their hands with interesting story suggestions (in Spanish nonetheless), and they all love to act stories out. We are having so much fun!
Last week I did a mini story with my fourth graders to prep them for my Cade meu Rango? MovieTalk. My plan was to tell the mini story for around 15 minutes and then start the MovieTalk, but my students were so involved in the story that it lasted for the entire 30 minute class period. It was awesome to watch all of my students participating and engaged in the story asking process!
This mini story preps the students for the MovieTalk by focusing on the following words/structures:
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Many of my students referred to my classroom word wall to create endings for this story. Watching my students refer to the word wall made me think of a thread I read on the moreTPRS listserv debating the usefulness of word walls. Some teachers argued that having a word wall was pointless because you are posting words that the students should have acquired, thus they shouldn't need to refer to them. Other teachers argued that they served as a reminder to recycle vocabulary throughout the year. My word wall has been up for less than a year, so I am still experimenting with its usefulness in my classroom. I have found that when I ask my students for ideas on what happens next in a story the word wall helps them take their complex thoughts and articulate them using language they know. Even though most of the words are structures that they have already acquired, the word wall serves as a great tool for students to focus their thoughts in Spanish.
Do you have a word wall in your classroom? If so, do you find it useful? I would love to hear other teacher's ideas on the usefulness of word walls in the T/CI classroom.
When it comes to writing your own classroom stories the possibilities are endless. Stories from a T/CI curriculum such as ¡Cuéntame! are time saving when the school year starts to get hectic, but there is something great about tailoring a story to the interests and humor of your students. I often write stories around a list of new high frequency structures that I want my students to acquire. Other times I see a picture or a prop that inspires me to write a story. When I saw the image below stories instantly started brewing in my mind!
Since it is the beginning of the year I wanted to have a story that used structures that my students would be hearing frequently in class. This list included: se sienta, se levanta, prende, apaga, camina, corre, abre, cierra. I started this lesson by using TPR to review/reinforce the above commands. During the TPR I broke my class up into two groups and gave each group the name of a different Spanish speaking country. Then I addressed each group separately using their country name. I saw Jason Fritze use this technique and I was amazed at how engaged the students stayed during the TPR. Not only did they have to listen to the commands, but they also had to pay attention to which group I was asking to do the command. It was a great way to keep TPR novel!
After reviewing the main structures for this story through TPR (none of these structures were new for my students) we started acting out the story. Here is the basic script:
Hay un chico. El chico se llama Billy. Un día Billy camina a su casa. Abre la puerta y se sienta en el sofá. Billy prende la tele y mira su programa favorito __________. (Here the students came up with different ideas for Billy's favorite TV show and voted on their favorite suggestion. I then gave our classroom artista 3 minutes to draw a scene from the show and we taped it to the TV. Describing the drawing offered great comprehensible input for the students--plus the drawings were hilarious!).
The ending came from reading Mike Peto's blog post about his favorite bailout moves. Mike uses what he calls the "unexpected ending" where the opposite of what the students thinks is going to happen is what happens. In this story I was building up the suspense for the dinosaur to eat Billy, but in the end it was Billy who ate the dinosaur.
What inspires you when you write a story for your students? I'd love to hear about home run stories that you use during the beginning of the year.
Back to school!? Wait...where did the summer go? As I sorted through piles of papers and props that I left at the end of last year (note to self: no matter how exhausted you are always finish cleaning your classroom at the end of the year) activities to start the school year started spinning through my head...
I find the beginning of the year to be a tricky time--I want my students to leave after the first day feeling excited about learning and knowing that they are an important member of our classroom community. This is often a tall order when you only have 30 minutes and a classroom full of squirmy elementary students! My beginning of the year activities are always evolving and they have been largely inspired by Bryce Hedstrom's La persona especial and Ben Slavic's Circling with Balls. I love both of these beginning of the year activities because it gives the students a chance to learn more about one another and it also gives you as the teacher an opportunity to show that you are invested in each individual student. Having said that, I personally have found that at the elementary level students have a hard time staying engaged and focused if I spend 5-10 minutes in a discussion about each individual student. I value the premiss of these activities so I've come up with a few alternatives for the elementary classroom...
How are you beginning the year? Feel free to post your own ideas below!
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!
My 3rd and 4th graders dived into reading Brandon Brown quiere un perro and they are loving it! One student said "Señorita T, this is so cool, there are so many words in this book that I know!" It is so gratifying to see that those weeks of pre-teaching the vocabulary for the novel paid off!
If you read any of my previous posts about Brandon Brown quiere un perro then you have heard me rave about the teacher's guide. I used the teacher's guide script for the chapter 3 reader's theatre and my students had a great time acting it out! During reader's theatre all of the students have a copy of the script in front of them and actors (and narrator) are reading their lines of dialogue from the script (no need to memorize anything). Acting out the scene provides the readers the opportunity to associate meaning by working closely with the text; this correlates to gains in vocabulary, comprehension and retention.
My reader's theatre was inspired by a workshop I attended this past summer at NTPRS by Carol Gaab. If you are ever at a workshop and Carol is presenting you must go and see her--she has so many great strategies to keeps students engaged while reading.
Here are some of Carol's ideas that I incorporated into my reader's theatre (thank you Carol!).
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.