I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas" and "Bananas" through Fluency Matters.
In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas.
I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design.
In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience!
You can reach me via email at senoracmt at gmail.com.
My VERY first product on Teachers Pay Teachers was Reading Club. I had been working with a Spanish 3 class and my comprehension-based reader, La hija del sastre. I created a free product upload that contained the survey that I gave the students to group them, suggested follow-up activities, and and welcome notes that lay out the rules of the group.
It had been quite a while since I had updated the document and the process has morphed in my classroom over the years. As I made the document look nicer, I wanted to make the document more useful to teachers who were using other readers and even those doing literature circles.
Check out the new product to find a sample choice novel grouping sheet, a choice novel daily report sheet, a whole-class novel grouping survey and welcome to the group letters, and several follow up activities to accompany the study!
For lots of additional ways to follow up your daily reading check out these items in my store:
As a first year teacher in 1994, I struggled: my language skills were still new and still very much intermediate, I had no formal training in second language acquisition, and the only planning I knew how to do was to move from page to page in the textbook as I covered new material. First year teaching is kind of like a reality show… you just hope you are still standing at the end and don’t get voted off the island.
The problem began when, in year two, I took out the same plan book and copied the lessons I’d done the year before into the new cells. If it had only been 2 years, that would have been less of a failure but I went on like this for 6 years.
My first principal was an easy evaluator. When you had your very first evaluation, you received a needs improvement, the second and third were good and at the end of your second year, when it was time to give you tenure, you received an excellent. And excellent you stayed… Until he retired.
When the new principal came in 1998, he was full of big ideas. By the time he evaluated me in 2000, I was a 7th year teacher. I mean… I was a pro, right? I had SO MUCH EXPERIENCE NOW. I went in for my post evaluation conference expecting the usual “great job, you’re so excellent”. That’s not what I got.
Mr. Fritchtnicht said: “You’re not bad… but… Have you ever considered trying some new things in the classroom? There are a lot of language teachers who are using pod seating, using centers, engaging the students with methods like TPRS… The textbook doesn’t have to be your only tool.”
Internally I said: “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, MR. HOTSHOT NEW PRINCIPAL??? I AM AN EXPERIENCED LANGUAGE TEACHER.” Externally, I said: “The things I do in my classroom are the things that I was trained to do in college. They are effective.”
But the problem was, they weren’t. Not at all. I had 80 Spanish 1 students, 55 Spanish 2 students, and 4 Spanish 3 students. Kids were not engaged, did not see value in language study, and were gaining zero proficiency. But I was not growth minded. Rather than deal with the reality of what he saw in my room, I ran away. I took another job and tried to bury my head in the sand.
The funny thing is, Mr. Fritchtnicht’s evaluation was like the grain of sand in an oyster. The more I tried to soothe myself by saying he didn’t know what he was talking about, the more I tried these new tricks in the classroom.
In 2005, when I did not pass the National Board process I was forced to really reflect on where things were going wrong. It was a turning point for me. I started teaching kids over content and teaching for mastery over teaching for coverage. That little grain of sand stopped being irritating because it was turning into the pearl of a language program bursting at the seams!
It is HARD to hear critical feedback. It is hard to grow when you’re comfortable in a rut. I tried to run away but the truth always finds you! Honestly, I’m so glad it did. I am SO happy in my classroom today. I’m completely free to teach the students I have in front of me.
Yesterday, for the first time in 19 years, I saw Mr. Fritchtnicht. I was attending a local conference and saw his name on the presenter list. He’s a superintendent now. I went to his session and told him that for the last few years, his ears had probably been burning as I told the story of his evaluation and my eventual transformation. I was so glad to have the opportunity to thank him for challenging me.
It’s probably evaluation time in your district too. Just know that the things that sting can sometimes be the very thing you needed to hear… even if you aren’t ready to hear it at the time.
Jeff, if you happen to see this, thank you for your impact.
ACTFL is such a rush. There are so many people. The exhibit hall is so huge. There are more sessions than you could go to in a year of PD hours. It is a bucket list conference for sure. Are you going? Is it your first time? Are you on the fence?
This year the ACTFL site is our nation’s capital! If you’ve been thinking of going and just haven’t made the final arrangements, it’s time! So many things in DC are free, you can get a ton of great PD and slip in some visits to national monuments in your free time!
I’m presenting a whopping FIVE TIMES this year!
On Thursday, I am presenting an ACTFL full day pre-conference workshop on how to find all the input! Teaching with 90% TL is the goal but we have to have a whole arsenal of input based weapons to make that happen! From sustainable development goals to reading to short films and music, we’ll dig out the language from all kinds of resources!
On Friday morning, I am presenting with Jim Wooldridge. A couple of years ago we did a series of video tutorials about how to teach with a graphic novel. In this workshop we’ll be deepening that discussion and sharing the best practices as you bring this powerful medium to your class reading!
On Friday afternoon, I am presenting on assessment! There are so many ways to assess in a world language classroom!
On Saturday morning, I am presenting with Jim again. This time we want to share how to cook up powerful learning with senorwooly.com and the input packed ‘nugget’ curriculum!
On Saturday afternoon, I am presenting with Kristy Placido and Carol Gaab about the powerful acquisition students experience through Fluency Matters readers! We want to help you dive deep into planning for proficiency! Come take the plunge with us!
Mine are just a handful of the sessions you can attend at ACTFL in DC. If you haven’t signed up yet, visit actfl.org and do it today! Pre-conference workshops are $185 through 10/30 and $210 after!
Hope to see you there! It is DEFINITELY somewhere to share.
They listen while they study. They have in earbuds in the halls between classes. They listen in the car. Our students love music. It’s an artistic medium with something for everyone! And it’s an artistic medium we can use to build engagement in our classrooms.
I don’t force my students to listen to music at home, they tell me all about their Spotify play lists full of songs we have heard in class. I don’t give them “song homework” yet they come back with the words memorized. I tell them on Monday “DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO! We are watching it in class on Friday.” and they tattle on each other for watching ahead.
Music has universal appeal! Not every song hits with every student but if we incorporate a lot of great styles, we can find something that sticks with almost everyone.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use music with links to songs that use the same activities:
Surely you Gesture: Some songs just FEEL like movement. I listen the first time and I know that it is one my students will have fun gesturing. I got the idea from Cindy Hitz and started incorporating it in my own classroom. At first, I thought they’d be embarrassed but they are NOT. As they get more familiar with the gestures, they get more and more engaged in doing them. PLUS, it’s a great brain break! Yesterday, Jesse and Joy released the song Tanto in collaboration for Luis Fonsi. I listened once and fell in love! Not just in love, in gesture love. I knew it was a song my students would love gesturing to. Monday, Spanish 3 is going to give it the first try! Spanish 2 is also diving into a gesture heavy song. It’s a couple of years old but I still love it every time I hear it. The video for Suena el dembow is not classroom appropriate but the lyric video is a good substitute! Their hands are busy with the gestures anyway!
Part of a Unit: At the end of the school year, Sebastián Yatra released En guerra. I loved it and have blogged about it here. This is a great example of a song that carries such a heavy meaning, it is better within a unit of study. Using the song as a catalyst, students become engaged in using their developing language to discuss deep topics. One of my favorites from a few years ago is Morat’s song Aprender a quererte! I used it as part of a unit on education. A song inspired me to address one of the SDGs before I even knew about the SDGs!
Focus on the Artist: Sometimes its the body of work that is important! I’m a big fan of Lin Manuel Miranda and I wanted to introduce my students to his music in class. His music is in English (for the most part) but his roots are in Puerto Rico. Consider using music, bios, video clips, images, and quotes at the beginning and end of class to bookend the lesson for the week. In my unit, students have a warm up and wrap up each day that teaches them little bite-sized chunks about LMM.
Focus on a Grammatical Feature: Our upper level students are great at using the language they’ve acquired and are ready to start polishing up their output a little! Sometimes I use a song to highlight something grammatical in context. When I heard the David Bisbal song A partir de hoy for the first time, I knew I wanted to use it in conjunction with talking about student plans after graduation! What a great expression to learn! (The video is not school appropriate but there is a great lyric video)
Reading and Listening Skills: I use Cloze activities with music frequently but I also love having them listen for other things as well. Consider handing out the lyrics of the song as a “Move or Keep” activity. I copy the song lyrics, add 10-12 lines in front of different lines of the song. I choose 4-6 of these to switch places with each other. As my students listen, when they come to one of the lines, they have to write a K if they want to keep what is written or an M if they think it’s one of the lines I moved. If you’d like to try the activity, I included it in with Álvaro Soler’s Bajo el mismo sol. It is also great listening practice to have them try “Antes o después”. Give them a pair of lyrics and ask them if they heard lyric A before or after lyric B. I try to keep the two lyrics very close to one another in the song so they don’t forget if they heard it or not! Try it out with Luis Fonsi’s Sola.
No matter how you use a song, music is sure to make acquisition magic happen in your classroom. I’ve had such an interesting time watching my son Nick this year. Nick has been interested in music in Spanish since he was in 4th grade and saw his older sister singing songs she’d learned in my class. Over the last 5 years, he’s memorized around 40 songs in Spanish but has no idea what he has been singing. Now that he is a freshman and enrolled in Spanish 1, he comes home regularly and says… So if quiero means “I want” then when Sie7e says “quiero tu love” he is saying “I want your love”, right?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I want learning language in my classroom to feel like the zucchini in my meatloaf. Invisible to the naked eye but secretly forcing everyone to have something good for them whether they like it or not.
Follow my new somewhere.to.share Instagram page! You’ll find a chance to win one of 3 gift certificates to my Somewhere to Share TPT store! Grand Prize: $100 First Prize: $50 Second Prize: $25
I hate it, you hate it… We all HATE assessment. It is so hard to find the right way to let our students show what they know. How do we address the proficiency guidelines, accept students who develop at different paces, please the evil souls who demand RIGOR and PAIN in assessment, and give a point value to something that is not equal from one child to another… Well, friends. I’m going to say it. We can’t. We are never going to end up with the perfect assessment. But we keep trying!
My Spanish 4 this year is predominantly male and is prone to English blurts. Taking a page from my friend, Kristy Placido, they have to earn their Friday Internado by speaking Spanish during the week. They are doing it, but they don’t find it as exciting as last year’s group did. (I know, never compare your children.)
We just finished reading Kristy’s Frida Kahlo reader. It is so good and yesterday they had an AMAZING Discussion Thursday (on Wednesday) . Today they did the written part of their final assessment.
I am really excited about how the assessment turned out! I gave them choices (which I do frequently) but also made sure those choices stretched the language they would have to produce to higher levels. Check out what I did Writing assessment choices.
I have students in my level 4 ranging from just reaching novice high to “earned the state seal of biliteracy after Spanish 3″… It’s a wide swath but they are ALL still here and they are all able to communicate in TL at their own level! For this writing, I gave them the topics, we looked at the rubric, I gave them 5 minutes to plan their writing, and then 30 minutes to write. I’ll share the topics and some examples below.
Level 1 was a maximum B+ because they would be writing within their comfort zone instead of flexing their language muscles. Its target was a comfy Intermediate Low type of language… Paragraphs and known topics. This topic was simple, tell me all about Frida’s life.
Level 2 was a maximum of A because they would have to begin drawing comparisons. A few of the kids chose this one. I feel like it was a comfortable topic for even the ones with slower development of performance toward proficiency! In this topic they had to compare Frida’s life with their own… being sure to give evidence of the similarities and differences.
Level 3 allowed students the opportunity to earn an A+. These students had to compare Frida’s life with that of another famous person live or dead. This meant that they had to show what they knew from a broader range of topics and bring that into their Spanish presentational writing. Many chose this path! I love that this student used her SSR book as the point of comparison! I had everything from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Van Gogh to Amy Winehouse!!
Something I always do to encourage strong transitions is to share my Enriquécete words. I keep them in a basket and students pull out the ones they might want to use as they write. The cool thing is they eventually have to look really hard because “they already know them all”. 🙂 Such a problem!
I think this assessment STYLE will work for a lot of units and I’m going to try adapting it to my 2s and 3s and their tasks as well!
For more info about how I assess in class, check out this video.
It’s never perfect but this year is about as good as it gets! I finally have an afternoon prep! (I’m a morning person so I like getting a lot done before lunch and having a minute to collect myself after!) Our program is in a growing phase! Three years ago we had 17 in a combined 3/4. Two years ago, we had 40 threes (half seniors) and 12 4s. One year ago we had 40 threes (half seniors) and 20 4s. This year… We have 60 3s (12 seniors) and 20 4s… Next year we could have two sections of FOUR! I’m just so happy to see so many going on!
Now that the introductory part of the year is over we are into stuff that really gets students involved! In Spanish 2 we just finished SOMOS 2 unit 2 – La muchacha y la ardilla… I always let my students create their own story so in one class we had a boy in the park with a dragon and in the other we had an alien in area 51 with a monstruos guinea pig named Cuy Cucuy! This week we are doing a lot of past narrative that includes El banco by Señor Wooly, my unit on El cacto y el banco, and my unit on El robo loco. We are working up to our first read of the year, Bianca Nieves y los siete toritos!
In level 3 we are doing my unit on Biodiversity and Conservation! If you HAVE it, I am updating it and will post the new unit after we finish! I have some ideas for enriching the study and I want the unit to be clickable like some of my new units! If you don’t have it, buy it now! When the unit is updated, it will cost just a little more! Tuesday will be our field trip to the woods near our school! The kids are excited for that! Our first read of the year, Robo en la noche will follow this study. I usually read it in 2 but we made a switch last year for La llorona so I am throwing it in now!
In level 4 we just finished my song based unit En guerra. We are about to read Frida Kahlo by Kristy Placido and this unit was the PERFECT lead in.
I can’t wait to see how far we go (Did you know Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote that song for Moana?)!
I have so many things in my store that I hope can make your life easier. From songs of the week to movie talks to proficiency building resources! Save big tomorrow! Thank you so much for supporting what I do!
I have SO many units. I mean… I can’t possibly fit in all the amazing units I own. My friends are so creative. TPT is so full of ideas. I can’t stop writing units about the SDGs… It’s sort of like I am a materials hoarder!
But… I love Lin-Manuel Miranda. And… as it turns out, In the Heights is about to become a feature film. So I clearly MUST introduce my students to him this year! But where does it go??
What if there were a series of ‘bookends’… cultural lessons that could serve as warm up and wrap up of the class period… but that still allowed me to teach the content I am focusing on during the majority of the class period?? What if I could start the hour with a soundtrack of Lin-Manuel songs and a beautiful LMM quote and end the period with some type of literacy based activity about his life and work? Well, we’re about to find out! I made it and I’m going to give it a try!
Citas de LMM – daily inspirational quotes from Lin-Manuel
Biography in colors – a reading comprehension activity
A 10 page reader about how Lin-Manuel decided to pursue his dream.
Twitterature – a peek inside Lin-Manuel’s amazing Twitter presence. He’s an uplifting guy, follow him now!
and readings about his two most famous musicals, Hamilton and In the Heights.
I hope you love it! If this is a hit with my students, I am going to make a series to let them get to know some of the amazing Latino leaders in the US!
The big back to school bonus sale is TUESDAY August 20! Don’t miss saving 25% on this new unit and ALL of my units at Somewhere to Share.
Looking for clever ways to grab some formative assessment grades? Try these generic exit tickets! Keep them in a folder and pull out what you need to check student comprehension of the day’s lesson! Available in Spanish and French, they are sure to make your life easier!
I have always been a huge fan of Ben Slavic’s Circling with Balls (now sometimes referred to as Card Talk). It is how we start our level 1 classes and we modify it slightly to start level 2! Upper level students have a different skill set. I hope this little 2.5 day mini unit can help you see that although they still love to build community and still need tons of reps, they can talk about more than just what they did over the summer!
It seems like just YESTERDAY I was reflecting on the 18-19 school year and remembering the joy that this journey brings me. A blink later, I’ve been to Costa Rica with an amazing group of students, I’ve written some new units, I’ve NAPPED, I’ve floated in my pool until I was a prune, I’ve been to Florida for IFLT19, I’ve taken a SILVER anniversary trip to wine country in Southern IL, and I’ve celebrated my 47th trip around the sun! It was an amazing summer! I’m sorry to see the relaxing days end, especially since my son is starting high school this year (and everyone who has already had a kid in high school knows that THOSE FOUR YEARS FLY BY) and I really enjoyed what I know are some of the last summer moments he’ll really spend hanging out at home with mom!
But now that the calendar page has turned to August and I’m watching my friends post pictures of their first days, I’m ready! Well… I posted a video on my Facebook that may prove that I’m not ACTUALLY ready… But internally, I am READY! I can’t wait to see the kids and get back in the routine!
Inspired by Meredith White, I have made myself a promise this year. A promise I know I can keep. It’s easy to overwhelm myself with a long list of things I’m going to do. I did it this summer! All inspired by Rachel Hollis and Girl Wash your Face, I promised about 10 things and did 5. Ok, 5 is fine but I should’ve started small and only PROMISED 5. So for the school year, I’m only promising 1.
I promise that I will make time to read. I love to read. I read at semester exam time when the world slows down a little. I read over breaks. I listen to books on long drives. I do not make a habit of reading during the active parts of the school year. But that is going to change. Reading relaxes me. Reading gives me new professional ideas and lets me slip into dystopian worlds (like the amazing series I just finished – Nyxia by Scott Reintgen). It lets me reset. So I’m going to read.
I think I can keep this promise. I have a nightstand. I can put my book there and pick it up every night before bed. I can keep a book on my desk at school too! I could sneak in a minute between when I arrive and when class starts! Or the last couple minutes of lunch hour! I can even keep one in the passenger door of the car for the times I am not driving (and lose control of the radio to my metal band loving husband). I will keep this promise.
I encourage you to set a small goal. Just ONE promise that will help you keep a great balance between teaching (which we love) and mental health (which we also love). I am never going to be able to “work less”… my brain fires on all cylinders ALL THE TIME… work helps me slow that train down! I can’t make a promise to take off Sundays (Meredith, I really wanted to join you in this but look at me typing a blog post AS I consider taking Sunday off… Maybe I’ll do every other Sunday??)… but I can promise myself I will do something I love and not stockpile my books for vacation times. I’m going to steal some vacation minutes every day this year! 🙂