Back to School novel giveaway!

Thank you so much to all who participated in the contest sponsored by our stores!! And the winners are…


Permission Please?

As teachers, we always want to share what we’re doing with our students in the classroom but are also faced with the dilemma of how to share responsibly!  One of my long-standing policies is to send home a blanket permission slip at the beginning of each school year that introduces parents to my classroom and also asks them to give permission in advance for class activities throughout the year.  It has served me well and I thought I’d share in case you’re looking at making something similar!  I use KG Fonts to create my documents (they are free for non-commercial use!  Be sure you pay for a license for EACH font you plan to use if you are going to sell items on TPT!).  I am including the Permission Please PowerPoint in an editable form if you’d like to change it to suit your classroom and also in Permission Please PDF Form so you can see what it looks like with the “Second Chances Solid” font I used!20_


So you want to match them with music!

In my iFLT session on detox(tbooking), we talked about downsizing. Even if you’re bound by a textbook or a department using way too many “units”, you can pare away the words you know are less valuable and make some room for fun things that really connect students with the language… things like music.

My 12 year old son synced his iPhone with my computer and it put my Spanish music into his library… imagine my surprise when I found him listening to Sofía by Álvaro Soler.  I said “Nick, do you like it?” and he replied “I may not know what it’s saying yet but it is so darn catchy!”  If music can do this for a student who is NOT in Spanish class yet, imagine what it will do when they understand a few or even MANY of the lyrics in their new language!

I DO match songs to my units in most cases.  For example when we study El Salvador’s Civil War and read the novel Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha, we listen to the SPANISH version of Gangsta by Kat Dahlia and Sueño Americano by los Rakas… but there are a lot of songs I use as weekly bell-ringers that get in my students heads and keep them listening to the language outside the classroom.

What I do with the songs varies!  I may have them do a CLOZE activity.  We might listen all week and finish with a game of on the SMARTboard.  We might do an activity with manipulatives… there are so many ways to use songs differently!  If you have always used songs, these songs will likely be familiar to you… if not, they may give you a great place to start.

5 great songs for Spanish 1: You are the One by Sonny Monreal (Spanish and English gives them a confidence boost as the first song of the year), Picky by Joey Montana (Available here from my TPT if you need a little help getting started), Te Quiero by DJ Flex, Tengo tu Love by Sie7e, Cuando me Enamoro by Enrique Iglesias and Juan Luis Guerra.

5 great songs for Spanish 2: Como te Odio by Lasso, Sofía by Álvaro Soler (Available here from my TPT if you want to see some sample activities), Solo Soy by Doctor Krápula, Todo Cambió by Camila, Darte un Beso by Prince Royce (Available here as a movie talk unit from Kristy at Placido Language Resources).

8 great songs for Spanish 3 and 4: La Bicicleta by Shakira (Available here), Cómo te Atreves by Morat, Paraíso by D’Vicio (Available here), Sé que te Duele by Alejandro Fernández (Available here), Andas en mi Cabeza by Chino y Nacho (Available here from Martina Bex’s Comprehensible Classroom), Amor con Hielo (Also from the Comprehensible Classroom), La Gozadera by Gente de Zona, Latinoamérica by Calle 13.

Whichever songs you choose to use with your students, just ENJOY the music with them! For me, there is no grade attached.  I DO have them turn in their cloze activity if we do one (but I never load it to the online gradebook and they never seem to ask about it)!  This relaxed policy on music makes it feel like listening to music in their L1 and they start to do it AT HOME!  Without being prompted!!!  It’s like they’re doing homework for FUN!  They even find NEW SONGS! 🙂

Always keep one ear on Batanga radio to see what’s new that you think will become an earworm and set Spanish in their head even outside the classroom!


Start a Fire in Me

One of my favorite songs on the radio is by the group Unspoken.  It’s called Start a Fire.  The chorus is so catchy “Start a fire in my soul. Fan the flames and make it grow so there’s no doubt or denying… Let it burn so brightly that everyone around can see that it’s you, that it’s you that we need.  Start a fire in me.”

It’s a great anthem for what needs to happen to me spiritually but it also strikes me as the way to come back for the new school year rested, re-energized, and ready to start fires in the souls of students who don’t realize yet how much language study could mean to them.

What are you doing this summer to fan the flames?

Money is tight… most of us know that the practice of school districts paying for a full conference/travel/etc are slim…

Money is tight… as teachers, how do we travel to build our cultural backstory and bulk up our language proficiency when a tour is upwards of $3500 today?  We don’t make that much money!

Money is tight… buying and using new materials means an out of pocket purchase.  If the district wants student engagement and retention to grow, they need to invest… but they just can’t.

So what do we do?

  1. This summer if you can’t do anything to get yourself out to a conference or to a country where your TL is spoken, immerse yourself from home.  Read Twitter feeds, read books that will inspire you as a teacher, and read in your TL.  Watch shows online in your TL.  Listen to music in your TL.  Make this a summer of immersion no matter where you are.  Immersion in language AND in educational practice.  You’ll be amazed how one little book or one great show can reinvigorate your enthusiasm for the classroom!
  2. Start a savings plan.  We all know that funding in education is just not available but an investment in yourself is important!  If you continue to learn, grow, and apply new ideas in the classroom, you’ll always feel ready to start with the next group!  Excited even!  Save a little each month and in the spring, sign up for that conference you’ve been wanting to attend!
  3. Start a long term savings plan.  If you’re needing a boost on your language proficiency or cultural knowledge, start saving for a trip to a country that speaks your TL!  Put a little away every month and in 2 years, you’ll be able to make that trip!  Check out your state language teaching organizations!  Most have summer scholarships that will pay for tuition and room/board while you attend language classes in schools in Mexico, Spain, etc.  Then you just have to worry about flights and excursions!
  4. Travel with students.  Aside from giving YOU a broader cultural base (at little to no expense) to draw from, traveling with students makes them hungry to see more of the world.  The more students we can expose to the world’s people, the more chance we have of creating life-long language learners.
  5. Think about “next year I’m going to”.  Don’t close the door to your classroom on the last day and open it (and this year’s plan book) again in August.  This summer set a goal to create ONE really awesome unit that will keep you excited to go back and share it with your students!

Have a GREAT summer!  Enjoy the break you have earned and feed your professional self as well!  The new school year will be here in a blink and just one little idea can make that transition back to the classroom an exciting one!

For Learner by Teacher or for Native by Native? Try both!

In Spanish 3/4 we are reading the novel Frida Kahlo from Fluency Matters.  Our focus is the difference in how we truly see Frida, pain and flaws included, in her self portraits but our selfies tend to reflect a polished and filtered version of who we are.

This novel gives me the opportunity to reach out through social media, literature for learners, but also authentic resources.

In Ch 3 we read how Frida contracted Polio as a small child.  Today we will read chapter 4 and learn how her leg was affected by the disease.  Our selfie of the day will be a body part we are self conscious about.  (I’m going with my second chin!) My authentic resource today is a group of infographics about vaccination schedule, reasons to vaccinate, and problems these diseases can cause!

Bring any and all reading materials you can find into the classroom!  You’ll never regret time spent reading!

Snapchat with Frida Kahlo Novel

We started our study of Frida Kahlo and the selfie yesterday.  I own the TG and a class set of novels and I am excited about all of the things that are already at my fingertips to make this novel successful… but I also wanted to integrate something that would leave a lasting impression on my students.  Something that they will remember every time they see an image of Frida!

Meredith White and Kristy Placido had me wanting to create a class Snapchat and this novel was the PERFECT place to bring it in!  It is great because they can all send me snaps and can see my story @wildcat_Spanish but I don’t follow them so I don’t have to worry about seeing something I shouldn’t!

I took the novel and looked at the content in each chapter.  For our introductory day, we were looking at 4 of Frida’s “selfies”… After we saw and discussed these autorretratos, I asked students to take a selfie that was a clear reproduction of one of these paintings.

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Today, after reading chapter 1, we focused on transportation.  Frida Kahlo’s father came to Mexico from Germany by boat. Their task this evening is to take a picture with a means of transportation.

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The rest of the novel includes:

Ch 1 Selfie w transportation (Guillermo came to Mexico on a ship)

Ch 2 Selfie w a member of your immediate fam (Guillermo loses and gains a wife)

Ch 3 Selfie w favorite comfort food when you’re sick (Frida gets polio)

Ch 4 Selfie of part you’re self conscious about (Frida’s “pata de palo”)

Ch 5 Selfie w something that represents a parent’s job (Frida takes pics w dad)

Ch 6 Selfie w your pet (Frida has a pet mouse)

Ch 7 Selfie with besties (Frida’s besties are the Cachuchas)

Ch 8 Selfie con tu amor (can be a star or something silly) (Frida falls in love with Alejandro)

Ch 9 Selfie en el centro (Frida goes downtown with Alejandro and catches the trolley)

Ch 10 Selfie de un cicatriz (Frida’s accident)

Ch 11 Selfie con una persona con quien NO debes casarte  (Frida y Diego)

Ch 12 Selfie en ropa rara (Frida dresses like la China Poblana)

Ch 13 Selfie con una cita que te guste (This chapter includes a great Frida quote)

Epilogo Selfie con tu casa (Museo casa azul)

I kept putting off getting a class Snapchat because it was new to me and I am always a little afraid!  I do not regret that I did it.  Today was only the first “reveal” day of the images and it really was special to see how much they loved seeing each other! Feel free to use our same selfie guidelines and join us or create your own!

Blow your Colleagues’ Minds: For real!

Are you trying to make a paradigm shift with little success?  How about a little game with your colleagues!?

How much do they know about ACTFL’s proficiency guidelines?  Play this little game with them and let them see how unrealistic many of our goals in language programs throughout the years have been!!

Top two reminders:

  • In many states, language teachers must be Advanced Low proficiency on the OPI exam to get certification.
  • In those same states, many teacher candidates without study abroad (and even some with) struggle to get past intermediate high.

To play the game:

  • Print all sheets. (Enough copies for groups of 3-4)
  • Cut apart the writing and speaking descriptors.
  • Allow the teacher groups time to place the descriptors beneath the level they think is being described.
  • When teachers are finished grouping, reveal the secret… ALL of these descriptors are either Advanced Low or Intermediate High!  Teacher candidate level.  Bold represents Advanced Low.
  • Look together at these descriptors and discuss how many we have been expecting as early as level 2 (perfection with past tenses) for years!!!
  • Discuss ways to design a curriculum that truly moves students toward Intermediate High proficiency!
  • Preparing the Troops Game