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?
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.
Here is the link for the Storybird story I used to backwards plan for Brandon Brown quiere un perro and a pdf of Rebecca's Book Creator story Un mono para Gloria.
Thanks again for everyone who attended our session! It was great to connect with all of you!
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?
Thank you to all of the organizers of the first ever Comprehensible Input Midwest (CIMW) conference! Not only did I leave the conference refreshed with tons of great ideas, but I also scored a few free novels thanks to TPRS Publishing and TPRS Books. This conference was unique because I got a chance to connect with local CI teachers AND see presentations from superstars such as Stephen Krashen and Carol Gaab! I presented a session titled Turning the Page: Reading in the Lower Levels which focused on backwards planning strategies for novels and activities you can do to keep your students engaged while reading. Below is a pdf of my session and some ideas from other presentations that I am excited to use in my classroom.
Krashen's Keynote Presentation
The conference started out with a presentation from the one and only Stephen Krashen! Here are some powerful thoughts from his presentation:
Carol Gaab: Inspiring Higher Order Thinking (HOT)
This session really got me thinking about the types of tasks I use in my classroom. During this session Carol stated that we need to "decide what we want to occupy our student's cognitive capacity." When I apply this statement to Bloom's Taxonomy on the left, I can see that I need to focus on creating more activities that use the upper skills. During this presentation Carol proved that you don't need to use complex language to talk about complex ideas. Teachers simply need to give students the language they need in order to process and respond to the questions they are being asked. Below are some of Carol's ideas that I have already implemented in my classroom this past week!
Who else was at Comprehensible Midwest? Did you learn any ideas that you are excited to implement in your classroom this month?
I am now a middle school teacher! At the end of last school year a position at the middle school in my district opened up, so this year I am teaching 7th and 8th grade students. Although it has only been a couple of weeks I am loving the change. My students can speak so much Spanish! I am blown away by their creativity and willingness to express themselves! My brain is already spinning thinking of endless possibilities of activities that I can do with them this year.
Over the summer I was inspired by the infographic syllabi that I have seen online so I decided to give it a try. I used Piktochart to create a new syllabus for both my 7th and 8th grade classes. I wanted to keep the information concise so I stuck to the following topics: contact information, class overview, classroom expectations, materials and goals. The "I can" goals are from Dustin Williamson's blog. Piktochart was easy to use, but in order to download the syllabus into a printable PDF I had to purchase an account ($20 if you are a teacher).
To start off the year I was inspired by Allison Wienhold's blog Mis Clases Locas. On her first day of class Allison sets up an Instagram photo booth where her students can take photos upon entering class. I decided that an Instagram photo would be a great way for students to introduce themselves and choose a Spanish name. First, I had to create my school specific Instagram photo frame. I used this Instagram template to create my photo booth. After some fancy photoshop magic I took the finished product to Walgreens where I printed it onto a poster-sized foam core. Voilá, one life-sized photo frame!
On the first day of class I handed out a list of popular Spanish names. Each student had to pick a Spanish name and write a hashtag that represented how they were feeling about the first day of school. Students had the option to write their own hashtag or choose from options such as #necesitocafé, #odioloslunes, #megustaespañol, #megustaelverano, #tengosueño. On a piece of paper they wrote their Spanish name (in true Instagram fashion they put the @ symbol in front of their name) and their hashtag. When it was their turn to take a picture, students had the option to put on glasses and hats from my prop bins. Once they had their props on, each student introduced him/herself to the class (we all said hello using that person's Spanish name), read his/her hashtag and then I took the picture. Of course the student photos turned out better than mine, but the picture below will give you an idea of what the end result looked like.
Like what you see? Download the template for your own Instagram photo booth.
I printed out all of the student photos and put them on the bulletin board outside of my classroom for back to school night. The students and parents loved looking at all of the pictures! I loved that this activity gave the students an opportunity to learn their classmate's Spanish names and express their own feelings about coming back to school. It was also a great way to break the ice and show the students that this is a class where you can express yourself and have fun!
What are your favorite beginning of the year activities?
It has been 90 degrees here in Chicago and I work in a building without any air conditioning... needless to say, this week has been a struggle! At this point in the year my students think that videos are much more interesting than I am, so I decided to embrace this and do a MovieTalk for the last week of school. This hysterical animated film is called Rollin' Safari - What if animals were round?. It has just the right amount of humor and excitement to keep my students engaged during the last stretch of school.
With the use of some strategic pausing this video can create a lot of drama and suspense in class. We did class voting on topics such as 'Will the crocodile eat the flamingos?' or 'What animal is going to jump out of the water?'. Here are some of the structures I used for this video:
Back in November I was inspired by Martina Bex's session on teaching language through culture at ACTFL. 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. After her presentation I was inspired to create a CI unit for the Reyes Magos and the result was awesome. It was great to watch my students be engaged while learning about cultural practices! Since that lesson I've dropped the ball...I was busy reading novels with my 3rd and 4th graders and doing typical CI stories and activities with my 1st and 2nd graders. But when I was spending the last of my curriculum budget for the year I found an amazing lesson on the encierro de toros (the running of the bulls) from Martina Bex. Martina already did the work for me by creating an informative presentation with pictures that explains the encierro de toros in comprehensible Spanish (thank you Martina!). I did take some liberties in paring down the language even further for my 2nd graders, but since I am new to this whole CI/culture thing it was great to have Martina's work as a starting point.
After my students learned about the history of the running of the bulls, I created a story about a young girl named Sofía that goes to Pamplona and participates in this exciting event. I tried to find images on Storybird that would fit with the story I wanted to tell, but I didn't see anything that matched the story I had in my mind. I ended up taking images from Google and creating a Where's Waldo-esque story that includes the following high frequency structures:
This story was a hit with my students! What kind of kid wouldn't want to act out the part of the bulls chasing people down the streets of Pamplona!? After we read and acted out the story I saw a project on the Spanish Cuentos website that I wanted to try. If you are not familiar with this site you really should check it out! The website has a variety of different hand drawn videos that are compelling AND focus on high frequency structures! Jackpot! They charge a small fee to unlock all of the videos (I think I paid about $20), but I've used it enough that it was definitely worth it.. On the website there is a video of a very creative digital storytelling project. In the description of the project it says that students were asked to create a story in class using high frequency words. Once the story was written each group made characters and other paper props for their story. After the props were created one student narrated the story (no reading allowed), one student videotaped, and another student manipulated the props. The result was awesome!
I applied this project to my 'Aventura de Sofía' story for my 2nd and 3rd graders. I broke up my students into small groups and gave each group a list of props that they were responsible for making for the story (each separate group made all of the props and recorded a their own story). I gave each group one iPad and one student was responsible for filming the story while the other group members manipulated the props. Instead of having a student narrate the story I decided to read it aloud (this simplified the project for me because it allowed all of the groups to videotape at the same time). The next class period we had a viewing party where the students got to watch all of the videos from their class.
Watching the videos was great because it provided a novel way to hear the story a few more times. Next class period I am thinking of muting one of the videos and asking the class to work collectively to narrate the story (I will pause and ask for volunteers to narrate different parts of the story to the class). This will be new for me because usually my focus is on filling my students with input, but I have a feeling that some of my students (especially my 3rd graders) are overflowing and ready for some output! I'm excited to find out!
In his book The Power of Reading, Stephen Krashen says "Language acquisition comes from input, not output, from comprehension, not production" (p 136). Even though most teachers agree that reading is a powerful way to provide students with the input that is required for language acquisition, many teachers are hesitant to being reading a novel with their students. As a teacher who teaches four different levels and around eight classes a day, I'm here to assure you of one thing: novels are your friend, not your enemy! For me, using novels has been a total lifesaver for the following reasons:
My 4th graders are currently reading Las aventuras de Isabela by Karen Rowan. I spent months pre-teaching the vocabulary words so that my students could read straight through this novel. In my experience, pre-teaching the vocabulary makes it so when you read the novel you don't lose momentum and the class can get lost in the story!
This book is set in México and offers opportunities to explore different cultural topics. As a teacher it was awesome to expose my students to such a wide variety of authentic resources while reading this book! Check out my top 3 cultural resources for this book:
Rewind to me three years ago sitting in my first Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling® (TPRS) workshop. I was learning about great reading and storytelling techniques but I couldn't wrap my mind around one thing: how does this work in the elementary classroom? How do I make reading an integral part of my curriculum when half of my students are preliterate? How are my squirmy first graders going to be able to listen to a story for a thirty minute class?
One of the reasons I started writing this blog was because I felt there was a lack of resources for Teaching with Comprehensible Input (T/CI) at the elementary level. Of course you can always take materials that are created for the upper grades and modify them for younger learners, but what do these modifications look like? Below are some of the ways that I have adapted T/CI to keep my elementary-aged students engaged and my class comprehensible.
My students love storytelling! Often when my students enter my classroom the first thing they ask me is "Are we acting out a story today?" They love having their voices heard and playing an active role in their learning. I have found the general guidelines of storytelling are the same at the elementary levels as the upper levels with a few key exceptions...
Change it up
The first time I tried telling/acting out a story with my first graders it was a complete disaster. Not only did I spend too long establishing details, I also tried to tell the story for the entire thirty minute period. One of the most valuable adaptations that I have made to my T/CI practice is the inclusion of activities to break up the listening and allow my students to get up and move around. In general, I think that incorporating movement and brain breaks into your lessons is important at all levels, but since younger learners have shorter attention spans movement is even more important in the younger grades.
Here are some simple ways I incorporate movement in my class:
I work in a district that has a play-based kindergarten program (I am so lucky to work in a place that values social emotional learning!). Having said that, most of my first graders start the year at very basic reading levels. When I started TPRS and T/CI I got hung up on "R" (reading) of TPRS--how much language should I be posting for my young learners? Am I harming them by posting words that they can't read? By not posting written language am I depriving them of valuable comprehensible input that they need? I now post our target structures on the front white board with their english translations, and when we are first learning the word I will pause and point at the structure just like I do with my older students. I also write out short dialogues on white board thought bubbles that I hold above my student actors. Sometimes I also write a summary of the story on our storyboard for them to read along with me if they are ready. After talking to my colleagues I realized that providing written language for pre-literate students is still extremely powerful because they are starting to make connections between sounds and letters. I never force them to read until they are able to, but it is important to provide the written language for the students that are ready to read it (and know that the other students will follow suit when they are ready).
These adaptations are simple, but can go a long way in keeping younger learners engaged and actively listening. What are some of your tricks for using T/CI in the elementary grades?