Si tú la ves + Free Unit of Study on Ecuador

After returning from a teachers only Ecuador tour with EF, Kara Jacobs and I were anxious to create something that would engage our students in the culture we experienced first hand… then Nicky Jam released Si tú la ves! The perfect bridge between the culture we wanted to share and the music we knew would engage them! Arianne Dowd, teacher author extraordinaire joined us in the attempt to create a unit that would include a song, movie talk, embedded readings, cultural connections, and a LOT of great Ecuadorian culture!

Kara and I can’t thank George Stewart and EF enough for the opportunity not only to see Ecuador but also for encouraging us to come up with a way to showcase all that we brought back with us!

Please enjoy this free unit!  Share with colleagues, and VISIT ECUADOR!

Si tu la ves TPT


Where would you go?

People often wonder what TPRS and TCI instructors do to expose students to advanced level structures.  I’d like to share how I started my year in Spanish 4 as an example but keep in mind… Advanced Low language users are able to use present/past/and future times with enough accuracy to be understood by natives not accustomed to language learners.  That means that I spend the MAJORITY of my time in all 4 levels being sure that my students can narrate a story and have a discussion about a wide variety of topics in these three times.  I expose them to things like subjunctive and conditional through pop-up grammar and the superstars always take note and produce those things… but I don’t expect that type of production from everyone, it just isn’t possible with so many different abilities in one classroom!

When my Spanish 4s came to class the first day, they found a folded piece of cardstock on their seat that said “If I were NAME, I would…” They sat in the spot with their own name but then traded cards with a friend.  After everyone had traded cards, I asked them (always in TL) to draw 3 things they would do if they were their friend.  We spent a full week discussing these cards.  Every day, I’d pick up a couple of cards and we would get reps of conditional and imperfect subjunctive… I didn’t go overboard and teach the whole imperfect subjunctive… I just used one structure “If I were”.  The conditional is so easy that they were comfortable by the end of the week saying all kinds of things they would do if they were in their friend’s shoes!

Knowing that I can teach ANY grammar concepts and important transitional phrases through units that they like, I had them vote on what they wanted to study this year.  Top choice (to my great joy) was traveling!  I used this unit to continue with a second structure.  “If I had a lot of money, I would travel to… and I would….”  I shared trips I had been on, we did some authentic infographics about how to pack a suitcase and talked about what we WOULD pack… We read about their English teacher’s study abroad in Spain and had a backchannel discussion about whether we would enjoy a trip like that or not.  Finally, they told me all about a place they would like to visit and what they would do if they had enough money and time to go there.

100% of them used conditional verbs to say what they would do in the final written presentation (the summative assessment).  Having that context wrapped around the verbs really made it stick!  We’ll revisit this construction often this year, adding more subjunctive chunks to accompany it… but we will spend most of our year sharpening our ability to narrate in the big three with transition words, rich vocabulary, and higher comprehensibility!

As you look at your units, how can you take what you must teach and wrap it in a context that engages and gives a real-world purpose to the language your students are producing?

It was just one session…

In 2007 I was searching.  Things in my classroom were not right and I didn’t know why… and then I saw Susan Gross present on TPRS at the ICTFL Fall Conference.  It changed my career.  I’m not kidding you.  One session led me down a path that has grown my retention rates, increased scores on proficiency tests, and increased overall love for Spanish at my school!

I learn new things EVERY SINGLE YEAR from just one session.  My goal is to never pull out the same plans year after year!  I want to find ways to adjust what I am doing to better meet my students’ needs!

This year, there wasn’t just one session… there were two!  The first was Bryce Hedstrom’s session on “What’s the Password” at iFLT in Denver.  The book is available from Teacher’s Discovery but to summarize… use important phrases and sayings that do not translate literally as a password to enter your room every day!  As Bryce promised, it has led to a sense of community, it has let me SEE how my students are as they enter the room, and it has taught them some valuable expressions already!!!  I just love this and am so grateful for presenters who continue to challenge me to up my game!

The second session was also at iFLT from Carla Tarini!  Carla shared a mini session about 10 line stories.  Our news program at school, Wild News, is now airing one Spanish word of the day (used in a sentence full of cognates) to tell a story.  The first 5 days tell the basics:

There is a teacher.

His name is ….

The teacher has a problem.

He has a big problem.

There is a monster in his car.

Friday, the monster was the cliff hanger!  On Monday we have a holiday so on Tuesday we will pick up with the last 4 (normally 5) lines.  I can’t tell you the end… the kids might be reading… but I CAN tell you that students who aren’t even in Spanish have loved this!  I have loved watching!

This Friday, we will take a picture of the teacher (Carla uses faculty and staff in her stories) and a colleague who helped “solve the problem” in action!  This will be the background as they reveal the final line of the story.  I think they’ll be so surprised!

Carla and Bryce, thank you for sharing your ideas!!! You guys who haven’t seen even ONE session in a while, what are you waiting for?  And if you have seen a lot of great ones, present one yourself this year!  Your ideas make a difference way beyond your own classroom walls!

The Solar Eclipse: Classroom Apocalypse…

We have school the day of the eclipse.  It isn’t that we’re the only ones in the area… there are a few St Louis schools dismissing… we’re pretty much all going.  The problem is that when something HUGE is about to happen, everyone knows that kids can’t think about anything else.  Blizzard coming???  All they can think about.  Severe storms??? Taking bets on tornados.  Spring Break starts tomorrow???  You get it… Their minds are elsewhere.

So I decided if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  If we’re going to be interrupted… Ok, it is going to go dark as night outside and the sun is going to disappear… we’re going to be interrupted… I want to do it while still getting some good language input! So I made a cultural corner reading on the solar eclipse 2017: Eclipse Solar Cultural Corner.

If you’re looking for something to share that is comprehensible and not cumbersome, maybe this will be the answer for your students too!

Back to School Door Decor

Did you take pictures in class last year?  Lots of them?  I did!  I shared them on Twitter under our school’s hashtag #SalemWildcatPride and in presentations that I have done this summer but I want my students to see them!  I want them to remember all of the great times we had last year as we begin another year together… So I am going to decorate my door with all of our great moments from last school year!

I went through my pictures and found 40 that represent a great sample of all that we did last year and put them in my cart at!  It was only $4 to print them all!!!

I’m going to hang black bulletin board paper over my door, post pictures and the attached Instagram bulletin board cut outs!  I made hashtags that represented some of the things we did and I’m planning to hang the Instagram logo at the top corner of the door!  I’ll post pictures when it is finished but I just couldn’t wait to share!

Attached find the Instagram Bulletin Board PDF and the Instagram Bulletin Board editable word document if you want to make an Instagram door to welcome your students back too!

Newsletter 2017 Edition

I am going to start the year again with a class newsletter.  I originally blogged about it here but have enjoyed this quick connection with parents so much that I wanted to share again!  I have sent them home with students in the past but this year I am going to try emailing them home!  We’ll see if it is successful!

I’m sharing an editable version (it is created in word) and a PDF version so you can see what it looks like on my computer in case you don’t have the same fonts I do and it affects your ability to view!

Don’t forget you can also print and adapt my permission slip here.


FirstNewsletter PDF

Big Time Ready for Back to School

It is exactly 10 days until my new crop of Spanish students make their way into my room for the first day of class!  It is so much different than last year when EVERY one of my students was new to me!  (This year I will only have about 50 students who I have not already taught!) I will also have no Spanish 1s!

Normally I would start the Spanish 1 year with a couple of weeks of getting to know them via personalized questions.  Focusing on Terry Waltz’s super 7 verbs and things students like to do, we would build a class culture from day 1 using the target language in class!  I don’t even spend a day going over classroom rules!  By 9th grade, they KNOW how to behave at school so I hand out the rule sheet and then spend the day doing what they came for, speaking Spanish! 🙂  If you want pointers on how to do it, here is a description of circling with balls.

In Spanish 2, I will have some students who are new to me.  I want to get to know them just like I did with my level 1 students, but I also want to get some good reps of past tense verbs.  Here are my plans:

First Day Friday:

New song: Soy yo- Bomba Estéreo

Students will have a few minutes to draw a picture of something they did over the summer.  We’ll do an adapted “circling with balls” that will allow me to expose them to A LOT of past tense in context so they can see not only super 7 verbs but also things that they enjoy doing and are therefore meaningful to them.

Monday- Thursday

We will continue our discussion of the class’s summer activities getting to know one another as we do.  We will start each day with the song of the week and doing an activity each day to learn it better.

On Tuesday and Thursday we will start with 10 minutes of Free Voluntary Reading.

Friday of our first full week: We will do a movie talk of this video- Simon’s Cat

In Spanish 3, I will have 95% students who I had in level 2 last year.  I want to dive right in with these guys.

First Day Friday:

New song: ¿Cómo te atreves? by Morat

Students will lead a discussion in the reading lounge about their summer vacation.  I will use my Discussion Thursday technique to get everyone involved and make the discussion truly interpersonal and student led.

Monday-Thursday: We are going to start the year building class community and using future tense in context.  Like Spanish 1 and 2, I am going to use a modified circling with balls to get students talking about what they will do during the school year.  I want them to set goals for the year, after graduation, and a lifetime.  If you don’t dream big, you never know how far you can go!

On Tuesday and Thursday we will start with 10 minutes of Free Voluntary Reading.

Friday of our first full week, we will watch part of episode 2 of El Internado Laguna Negra!  They watched episode 1 the last 4 weeks of school last year!  They’re primed and ready to watch.

In Spanish 4, I will have only students I had in level 3 last year.  We are going to start in the reading lounge!  I want to spend a few days just speaking with them in Spanish so they remember how much they grew last year!

First Day Friday:

New song:  Yo quiero by Gente de Zona ft. Pitbull

Students will join me in the reading lounge where we will talk about what they want to do in the new school year.  I’d like to hear what they want to learn more about, what their favorite topics were last year, and what they did with their Spanish over the summer.

Monday- Thursday of week 1

We are going to do a short unit called “Soy soñador(a)”.  I am going to ask them to dream up a future for other students in the class.  We’re really going to be doing a lot of if…then statements… but in the context of  “if I were you, I’d…”  It’s the first time I’ve ever tried it so it could be a colossal flop but I’m hoping they’ll have a lot of fun thinking of what their friends could do in the future.

On Tuesday and Thursday we will start with 10 minutes of Free Voluntary Reading.

Friday of first full week: El Internado Laguna Negra