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" and "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." through TPRS Publishing.
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.
When I read Kara and Megan’s post about the Kitipun Challenge yesterday, I knew that I wanted to make something to use with my students after break! I hadn’t heard it yet and I LOVE it. It has been stuck in my head since I listened the first time!
Thank you Kara and Megan for sharing with me and here are some resources to share if everyone else want to use the song too!!!
I started by doing an anticipation guide type activity with screenshots and predictions. I love getting repeated exposure to the future tense by trying to predict what will happen in books and short stories!
Next, I used some screenshots from the film short to create a backstory to connect the students with the film before we watch tomorrow. I asked them questions about the images until we knew who the man was, what was in the boxes, and why he was in the room with the boxes in the first place.
We actually had a little time at the end of the hour so I asked them to draw what they thought would happen when he touched the button on the bottom of the box.
Tomorrow we will make a doodle of what ACTUALLY might be in the box, not just our class story. We will watch the video for the first time, and we will predict what might happen next. I’m using it in level 3 so I will have them create a really great story to tell what happens after the… Oh wait, no spoilers. 😉
I hope you enjoy the unit. I love seeing their creativity when we predict!
When I saw this little film short, I knew it was the perfect little mini unit for predicting with students! Why predict with them? An advanced level speaker has good control of the three major time frames: Present, past, and future! If I don’t start making predictions in context early, how will they have enough exposure to the future tense to independently produce it?? Research says that worksheets and conjugations don’t do it… so we do it through engaging story!
Over the two days, students will spend a lot of time with the story before they ever see the video! They’ll start with a predictive activity called “The Handwriting on the Wall.” In this activity, they will look at screenshots from the video and decide which of two predictions (there is one sheet in the future tense and one using ir + a + infinitive) is correct. Discuss their predictions on day 1 and revisit this activity on day 2 after they’ve seen the video to see how they did!
They’ll follow this by looking at 5 screenshots from the story and answering teacher questions to build the backstory of the protagonist.
On day 2, they will start by reviewing the backstory that they wrote. I love sharing the stories that other sections of the same class created. Kids LOVE to hear their peers ideas and it is a super sneaky way to get repeated exposure!
They’ll follow this up by guessing what is in the boxes they have seen in the video. After giving them a few minutes drawing time, encourage students to share their ideas with the class.
At long last, they’ll watch the video (and hopefully be shocked) and then compare with the predictions they made on day 1.
Finish the class period by having them create a predictive epilogue using the included sentence frames!
It is a ton of great exposure to future tense and a great alternative to the traditional movie talk!
Hope you enjoy the activity! I’d love to hear how it goes. THE SWITCH
Isn’t it funny how short students’ attention spans are? By funny I mean… not exactly hilarious! They really keep us on our toes! When I am working through a whole class reader (or any story), I am always looking for follow-ups that give them repeated exposure to the story and its structures in addition to getting them thinking higher order thoughts!
I want to share a couple of follow ups that work well no matter what kind of story you’re working with as a class! Reader, short film, music video… there is narrative everywhere!
The first is an activity I created called Quip-Lash. In this activity, student groups will try to identify the character who “would have said” a particular quote and race to be the first on the X to show the class.
Here is a printable set of Quip-Lash instructions and an example of the game based on Señor Wooly’s new song Una canción original.
The second is an activity I stole from Kristy Placido and then dubbed “The Scene Machine”. (I love naming things… What can I say?) In this activity, groups draw and write descriptions of 4 scenes from the story then move from “game board” to “game board” matching the descriptions with the pictures.
Enjoy these activities and share how they went on Twitter @senoracmt!
is easy to become comfortable and to fall back on what we already know. The
same is true (and maybe even more) of our students. They acquire vocabulary
early in their language learning and fall back on it again and again.
object of this enrichment packet is to help students move forward in their
proficiency by deepening their vocabulary, adding strong transition words, and
polishing verb structure.
This is a great way to get your most proficient students the differentiation they so desperately need, but don’t limit it to the highest performing students. In many cases, struggling students want to impress you as well and they will pull structures from the cup (and use them correctly) too!
When I taught from the textbook, I taught grammar level by level. What I mean is that I taught present tense verbs, some commands, stem changers, and present progressive in level 1 then abandoned those verbs for reflexives, pretérito and imperfecto in level 2 and on and on…. when we finished chapter 2 and had memorized every conjugation of every reflexive verb in the Spanish language (that may be an exaggeration), we moved on and never talked about them again. There just wasn’t time! it was like I was at one of those hotdog eating contests and I was cramming everything in as fast as I could… most kids weren’t pro eaters and couldn’t keep up!
One of the things I have loved about building my own Scope and sequence is that I can use whatever verb forms are appropriate for what my students want to talk about without fearing they are doing grammar that is too hard!
This week my Spanish 2s are doing a Señor Wooly song, No voy a levantarme. Grammar is really just a chunk of language that i can give my students to communicate what they want, need, or are interested in… so I didn’t teach them verb charts and give them all the verbs they might ever use… the ones we don’t do today will come up at other times and it will give me a chance to revisit these! Our chunks came directly from the song! Me despierto, me levanto, me duermo, me ducho… we had a lot of PQA (personalized questions and answers as a discussion of class habits) to get repetitions of the structures and we watched the video, sang the song, and did the embedded readings available with a Pro subscription!
On day 1, we did the lyric Cloze sheet from the extras and we picture talked the images from the video’s slideshow of stills. It let me expose them to our target structures in the 3rd person form and PQA to get the 1st and 2nd person too!
Today, we did the viewing guide (did Justin sing this in the video) from the extras packet, the novice level embedded reading and a little FVR.
Tomorrow we will tell a class story and I will go back to some PQA as we use the structures to discuss a character that will have similarities to Justin from the video! On Thursday, using this word cloud (the dashes are there to keep the me attached), they will do a 20 minute timed write about their habits and routines.
On Friday, they will get a ton of great exposure to the song structures as they tackle some of the “nuggets” that accompany it!
Essentially, we are doing a grammar lesson, right?? I mean I am selecting verbs that I know are part of a family… but in their eyes it is just a lot of talking and smiling as we learn about how late Bella gets up or how Sydney brushes her teeth 4 times a day! But I keep going back to the same few, making sure they’re not just memorizing things they can’t use… they’re really starting to acquire and produce them correctly!
Don’t feel like grammar in a song, a book, an article, or an authentic resource means you have to stop everything and teach a grammar unit! It isn’t a hotdog eating contest…take little nibbles over and over and they’ll eventually end up digesting the whole concept… and everyone will be able to do it in their own time!
Whether you are new to teaching language through USING the language or a pro with years of experience, there is no doubt that providing tons of input in the classroom can be taxing. It is fun to story-tell or story-ask with the class but story after story day after day takes the novelty out of what we do.
How do we keep the “story” but also vary what our class looks like from one day to the next? It is all right here in your CI Toolbox!
Find a painting that tells a story! For Spanish teachers, Carmen Lomas Garza‘s art is a great way to use an authentic piece to develop the “backstory” of what was happening. The great thing is that these backstories tend to draw out some cultural details as students begin to notice things in the work of art.
It doesn’t have to be a painting. Have students draw funny scenes, project them or simply hold them up, and create stories about them!
Where better to find a story than in a comprehension based reader! Whether in FVR where students can explore a variety of stories or through whole class reads in which you explore a cultural piece together, reading is powerful input!
Bring in a guest speaker who you know can engage your students in the target language… No guests to bring in? Try a virtual guest! The great thing about virtual guests is that they can appear live or via shared video clips!
Consider: Bilingual friends, students who have studied abroad, students who are language majors or minors in college, tour guides from your student tours, authors of the readers you enjoy, other teachers and classes!
SONGS AND MUSIC VIDEOS:
Music just gets us in the heart! There is rarely a song we do in class that the students hate. While some are more “ear-wormy” than others, they always enjoy the CI based activities we do with the songs and their videos.
Go beyond the CLOZE activity by telling the “story” of the music video and using pieces of the lyrics to make the story an authentic retell.
SHORT FILMS AND FILM STUDIES:
I love doing Movie Talks! My favorite of all times is The Present (check it out here if you want a step by step on how to movie talk the video! What a great way to dig deep into the story, build vocabulary and grammar in context, AND visually engage our learners.
Films are also a story! While I wouldn’t movie talk an entire film, I have movie talked powerful scenes before I have students watch them. The great thing about the film is that they watch and the real exercise in building narrative comes after. You give them a great story and then tell and re-tell it!
APPS AND REVIEW GAMES
I am a sucker for Gimkit… but just vocabulary translation isn’t using sites (Quizizz, Quizlet, Quizalize, Kahoot) like these to their fullest potential! Try making the activities input based. Read a question, find the answer. Read a description, identify the character. Read a story chunk, identify what comes next.
Have you ever played Assassin (Mafia, Werewolf)? This is my “Plastic Ocean” Mafia game… if you’re not sure how to play, the instructions should help you get started! You can play Assassin after any story based unit as a way to recycle structures. I always do a couple of rounds of the story to model and then let student storytellers take over.
From a Humpty Dumpty tumble of an egg to a Goose Chase to find out what all of the characters from the reader you just finished are doing, you can find a story pretty much anywhere! Keeping the input flowing is SO much more fun when you fill your toolbox with solid, CI based activities!
My colleague is an incredible English teacher and for the past couple of years she has been teaching her students to write well by letting them explore examples of great writing, mentor texts. When she needs to teach them about introductions, she lets them read texts with dynamite introductions. When she needs them to focus on adding detail, she lets them read texts that are written with tons of interesting detail. When her business and technical writing class needed to write resumes, they read great resumes. The best part of reading mentor texts is that they don’t just copy a writer’s style, they find traits they like in a variety of texts and try to make them their own.
I wanted to bring this idea to my Spanish 4 classes. These are students who have been building proficiency through LOTS of input for 3 years and are now ready to begin polishing what comes out. They are no longer afraid to speak or to write, they know they’re good! I tell them as often as possible! Now they need to start using all those seeds I planted along the way to grow into high intermediate and low advanced proficiencies.
How does it work? This week, as we are preparing for our final exams, we did past tense mentor texts. Remember what Laura Terrill says about grammar. If you have to teach it in L1, they aren’t ready for it. Day one was kind of a scramble because I had put everything into Nearpod and then students’ apps weren’t updated and they couldn’t access the slides because I had incorporated new features (tech is always so much fun). Since I had lost my main vehicle, we resorted to the old school method of watching a couple of YouTube videos on the Smart board to see the “chart” and then talking, in TL, about the endings and which verbs they go with. I modeled for them how they would describe what they “used to be like” and then they wrote.
On day 2, I used their writing as the model texts. I wanted to focus on seeing preterite and imperfect together in context so we looked specifically at passages like this: When I was 8 years old, I lived in a rural area. We had a lot of land and I liked to play outside. One day, my mind told me that I should climb a tree to play football. It said “You are 8 years old, this is a good idea”. I climbed the tree and I fell out. It was a bad idea to listen to my mind.
We went through the verbs we’d use and why, talked with the student about his experience (in TL), and just got a ton of past reps! Then they wrote about their favorite Christmas memory. I wanted to see where they were with using preterite and imperfect together. Remember, they haven’t had formal instruction on these verb names nor their charts. We have worked the endings, we have learned tons of past tense verbs in context, and they have long been writing in the past tense based on “feeling”… but I want them to start to notice now. Some will go on to study at the university level and the reality is that they will need to be aware that their world is about to shift into a language class filled with grammar drills! I don’t want it to come as a surprise.
The third day, we talked about technology then and now. My goal for the day was to discuss what we used to use versus what we use today. This time our activity was oral but my model was still the mentor text. I gave them examples and then set them loose on Pixabay to find images that represented their past and present technology. When it was time, I modeled again with my images (a walkman and my Alexa) then let them start! They were all super cute and we got a ton of repetitions of past and present in context. The most amazing though was my student from Vietnam. She moved to the US in 6th grade and has very clear memories of her life before. For her past technology she picked a candle and talked about how her family had been so poor in Vietnam that they lived in a neighborhood without electricity. Today, she uses lightbulbs!
Our last day was a chance to read a biography (From Vidas Impactantes by Kristy Placido). We read and then compared this historic figure with someone famous today. This is a task that often appears on ACTFL’s AAPPL exam which they will take in late February! By this time, they were really demonstrating that intermediate ability to say something wrong, hear it, correct it, and continue.
Chances are good that you’re already using mentor texts in your classroom. My goal in the new year is to keep trying to use them in more effective and impactful ways! Happy last week of school to everyone who (like me) goes back on Monday!!
I do this activity a LOT to get my students retelling stories we’ve studied in class.
Students are not all at the same proficiency level and the gap between highest and lowest widens as they reach upper level language study.
This is in Spanish so if you teach another language, you can get the idea of what we are doing (make a statement about the image, answer two questions about the image) and my little pop up tips but you won’t know what they’re saying! SORRY!
I would love to hear feedback but please nothing critical of any our Spanish! 🙂
The 2014-2015 school year was my first foray into the deskless classroom. I was a little nervous, but I wanted space for my reading lounge and flexible seating was the only way to do it.
My room at the time looked GREAT with chairs and pillow case pouches!
It was an adjustment! The pillowcase pouches were always falling off, the clipboards would turn up with graffiti, and the markers in the marker boxes would end up in other people’s pouches. I decided that they were too much trouble and the next year didn’t use them.
When I started a new job in the 2016-2017 school year, I went back to desks for a short time. It was hard to get used to the amount of space they take up after 2 years of freedom!
My second year, I decided to ask for chairs and folding tables like I’d had in my old classroom. The admin was on board and I put together a collection of unused chairs from the cafeteria and tables from the storage room!
This year, they got me (and 2 other teachers) these beautiful new chairs!
When people switch to a deskless classroom, they often wonder how students write. For me it is simple! We store these folding tables at the back of the room and pull them out any time we need to do a writing assessment, centers, or other tabletop heavy activity!
The great thing about the tables is that I can set them up in any format I want! From a horseshoe to have a panel type discussion to individual table “islands” for group work, it is a quick set up and tear down.
The chairs have the added benefit of letting us turn to face one another easily with no barrier between. Our interpersonal communication is a lot more natural when we can easily move chair to chair and are free of desktops!
The best part, though, is that chairs can easily be stacked at the side leaving the whole room open! This allows us to utilize the floor space for some of my favorite activities like Floor Memory, Circle the Wagons, and MapTalks.
If you’re thinking of going deskless or have already done it, share your experience!