Digital Learning for Upper Level Spanish and French

It’s so hard to know what to do to engage students in language at the upper levels! We want to challenge them yet make it interesting. We want them to learn language but also learn life lessons… That’s why I write the units I write! By using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a base, I can create engaging units that let my students examine world problems through the lens of their new language.

Now that we are at home, I didn’t want to miss using my favorite spring units in levels 3 and 4!! I always do Mar de plástico in April in Spanish 3 and Basura cero in April in Spanish 4. With the help of Martina Bex, I was able to digitize both! THEN, Marcy Sheldon came to the rescue and helped me digitize Mer de plastique so that the French classes who use it could have access to the new, digital booster pack too! THANK YOU BOTH!

If you HAVE Mar de plástico, this is the link to the new booster pack that will give you a 2 week lesson plan and links to the activities! Mar de plástico Booster Pack

If you don’t have Mar de plástico, you can find it here: Mar de plástico Unit

If you have Mer de plastique, you can find the Booster Pack here: Mer de plastique Booster Pack

If you don’t have Mer de plastique, you can find it here: Mer de plastique

The new Basura cero Booster pack is here: Basura cero Booster Pack

If you need the original unit, look here: Basura cero

While I use Mar de plástico in Spanish 3 and Basura cero in Spanish 4 there is no reason why they are not interchangeable! Use both in both levels if you’re new to the units!!

Mar de plástico for Distance Learning

My favorite unit to teach in the spring is Plastic Ocean. I love being able to share this unit with my Spanish 3 classes and I was really looking forward to starting this month at school… but as you know, we aren’t in school!

My friend (and hero) Martina Bex (check out her amazing distance learning plans here) helped me digitize parts of the unit that I would normally do as printable manipulatives in class and my new friend Megan Loveless helped me learn how to assign Google Slides through my Learning Management System (LMS) Schoology.

If you are already using Mar de plástico, I want to share these with you! This is the Mar de plástico DIGITAL adaptation for Distance Learning.

The foundation of the unit is still the original Mar de plástico. Most of the resources in that unit are easy to deliver via your LMS for students to read and respond. This booster pack doesn’t remake the whole unit but it does digitize the floor memory activity and the unit hook!

I hope this helps you bring Mar de plástico to your students even from afar! If you’re new to this unit, check it out here:

Mar de plástico

The Twilight Zone

Normally the spring TPT sale has me thinking thoughts of spring break, graduation, prom, honors night, and hopes and dreams for the year’s end and year to come. This year, we’ve landed square in the middle of the twilight zone. We are not going to have those things. Some of us will not see our students again this school year… it’s likely that most of us will not. We’re teaching from home, missing their faces, and trying to find the best education opportunities we can provide while honoring those students with and without internet access… those with and without parental involvement… those with and without an interest in completing schoolwork outside of the school building!

I’ve found a few things that have been very successful for me in my first three weeks of distance learning! The first is music! Through a song of the week, I’ve been able to keep Spanish in their ears in the most low stress way possible. I wrote this unit specifically for the distance learning situation we find ourselves in (AND IT’S FREE)

Tu nombre Song of the Week

If you like the idea of continuing song of the week (these are not free products), most of mine are easily adaptable to this new reality! Some of the easiest would be:


Vas a quedarte





I have some free units of study that could be adapted to the online environment too!

Viviendas del mundo

Orangután en mi habitación

I have a brand new unit that I’ve been working on as well! It isn’t a free one but it was easy to do in the classroom and could be a great enrichment unit for students who are stuck at home! We did a series of “recipe talks”. Several amazing native speaker friends of mine shared their knowledge of the foods in video clips that I was able to use with the students in my class and that I’ve been allowed to share with you!

Recipe Talks

The two day sale April 6 and 7 (Use Code FORYOU to get 25% off) is normally such an exciting time as we are thinking ahead to what we want to do for our final units and in the new year… but this year we’re scrambling to find things that are adaptable to the E-Learning environment. Good luck to you as you face these surreal days. I can’t wait for the day we are all back in the classroom and teaching our students face to face but in the mean time, I hope I’m able to help you find things to do until that day comes!

When You Start to Get Angry

These are trying times for all of us. At this point, every teacher in the US is facing school closure that may be two weeks or may be the rest of the year. We’re all at our wits end and we have no idea how to navigate the world of E-Learning we have been thrust into.

I work for two small companies: Fluency Matters and Señor Wooly. My work in both settings is part time because my daily gig is teaching. When we first began to suspect that there would be closures, we never imagined that it would be basically nationwide… and that it might be for an entire quarter of our educational year. I’ve been teaching in Illinois 26 years and there’s never been ONE day when the entire state closed down for a crisis like this… now it’s at least 3 weeks.

Now that the extreme stress has passed and we’re all starting to find our routines, I am noticing more and more teachers who are upset. Upset that they can’t have more free stuff, upset that copyright still applies even when they’re forced into an unusual situation, upset that they might have to change what they had planned for the rest of the year because they can’t use that one resource they had their heart set on.

I need to get 3 things off my chest right now because the complaining is really starting to bring me down…

  1. There isn’t much toilet paper to be found. Everyone needs it, I need it… I don’t go in Walmart and TAKE it… even though I really need it and you really need it, we don’t even consider stealing from a neighbor or from the store. This is what it sounds like when teachers get mad that they can’t make a PDF of a book or record themselves reading it. “But this is what I was going to do next…” Well we are all in a new world of not doing exactly what we were going to do next. Be flexible and do the right thing. Change your plans.
  2. You gave me this free, now give me more free. Guys… that’s not financially responsible for a small business. Everyone is hurting right now. Schools are not even THINKING about next year’s supplies… this is going to hit our economy hard. Be thankful for the people who stepped up and got us through the hardest time… the two weeks when we had no time to plan. We just said goodbye (some didn’t even get that) and started the adventure of E-Learning. Schools are still being funded. Talk to your administrators. They want you to be successful teaching from a distance. Instead of assuming they would never get you something that you can use with your students, find out. If they won’t, they won’t… but be thankful for what we’ve been given and don’t complain about what you think you need next! I couldn’t have done these first two weeks without the free ECourses and Sr. Wooly plans. Period. Thank you Carol and Pat, Jim and Jen.
  3. “I need a way to assess my students without them cheating by using online resources like Google Translate.” Guys, make some changes in your assessments. These kids are teaching themselves right now. Some have no internet. Some have no parental support. Some are hungry. Some haven’t been sleeping because they’re scared… Those interpersonal assessments can wait until fall. This learning is not going to be the same as learning in the classroom with us. PLEASE be flexible. PLEASE adapt so that your goal isn’t to push them to keep up with your normal quarter 4 plans but rather to keep your target language in their ear and love for your class in their heart.

We can get through this together. Our primary concern right now should be the mental health of our students and our fellow educators. They/We can’t see friends. Everything they’ve/we’ve been looking forward to is being cancelled. Oh yeah, and there are a lot of people we know getting sick. School work is great for taking their minds off the scary stuff, for helping them keep a basic routine, and for giving them something to keep their mind busy but it can’t be school business as usual. Connect with them, ease up on them, and lighten their load.

Next year, God willing, we will start in August and we’ll ALL KNOW… every one of us across the nation… that last year’s classes may not have covered as much. We’ll make some adjustments and we’ll move on. Take some time today to send a nice note to your students… to make a change in the day’s expectations and let them know that you were worried about the stress they might be under… to ask them how they’re doing. I promise that they will appreciate you so much when they see that you’re putting connection over content.

School Shutdown: Planning for the NEXT Two Weeks

I have been SO grateful to my friends Martina Bex, Pat and Carol Gaab, and Jim and Jennifer Wooldridge for saving my behind this week. When I went to school Thursday, we were told that we should start thinking of how we would do ELearning should the schools close. By Friday evening, we were facing two weeks of planning!

Thank GOD for all the free resources that not only small companies like Fluency Matters, Señor Wooly, and The Comprehensible Classroom are sharing… big companies are opening up their platforms to bail teachers out as we navigate these unknown waters. Working at Fluency Matters and Wooly has let me see up close and personally how HARD everyone is working to give these materials away. Who could’ve ever imagined that nearly EVERY SCHOOL IN THE US would close??

But what they’ve given us is all for the first two weeks! They’ve shared and saved my hide for now and I need to start thinking ahead to what I’m going to do next. I would encourage you, as you try out all of these new resources to choose some and support the companies after the freebies run out. As our schools ask us to teach virtually, we need to be prepared to ask them for help with resources.

My first thought is that the ECourses worked out great today in my classes. I had all my students set up and we were able to log in and preview how to tackle the reader on our day together before the closure. If we end up with a full month closure, I’m going to purchase another title and do that next.

I’m a Señor Wooly subscriber so I plan to take the plans we are sharing through his site and use them for the next song that we tackle.

I am going to keep doing free-reading using Martina’s Choice Board and Revista Literal.

I love Screencastify so I am using the 2 week free resource and then renewing my subscription.

I am so excited about using Zoom too! It is free right now and it will make it nice to get to see my kids face to face (those who can make it at the given time).

What are your plans if the shutdown lingers on?

My E-Learning and Social Distancing Plans… and FREE STUFF.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I started buying a few extra things at the grocery store each time we stopped in. “Just in case”. In the back of our minds, I don’t think we ever believed that in 14 days, the whole state of IL would basically shut down. We are facing an unprecedented time as a family and as educators.

I’ve spent the last 7 days working fast and furious with Fluency Matters and Señor Wooly to get plans in the hands of teachers who are facing up to a month of E-Learning for their students. As my classes begin to work from home, here are my 5 major plans.

  1. Connect: At least twice a week we are going to have a “SnapChat” assignment that will get all of our selfies into our class SnapChat story. They’re going to be hungry for interaction, and I hope this helps a little. Twice a week, I will post a video lesson so that students can see and hear me instead of just doing the work from their Schoology accounts.
  2. E-Courses: My level 2 and 3 students are reading from the FREE ECourses that Fluency Matters is offering here. My level 4s are up in the air. We haven’t heard yet whether or not we will see them Monday (our schools officially close Tuesday but I see that some districts are having Monday be a teacher work day). If I SEE them Monday, they’ll take home a copy of La hija del sastre and will do the follow up activities from my post-reading packets: (I’ve made these FREE to help teachers who would like to see their students reading over the break): Reading Follow Ups Spanish, More Reading Follow Ups Spanish, Reading Follow Ups French, More Reading Follow Ups French
  3. Señor Wooly: I am a long time subscriber and curriculum designer at Wooly but for now, you don’t need a subscription to load your students up with musical input! Check out the Señor Wooly Covid plan here. We think the first set of plans will be ready for teachers TODAY (Sunday March 15). We hope to release a couple more in the coming week or two.
  4. SSR: Martina Bex shared an amazing packet of free resources and my department is going to use her materials for some choice reading. Between the choice board and the Revista literal stories, I think I can continue my Tuesday/Thursday 8-10 minute reading time with my classes. IF I see students tomorrow, I will also let them take a book from the class library but I don’t know yet so I’m counting on it being Martina’s stuff for now.
  5. I’m going to take time to PRAISE MY STUDENTS. As the mom of a 14 year old who has lots of questions right now, I know that our students are confused, maybe a little nervous, and also probably going to miss us a lot more than they realize. This isn’t going to replace classroom education. If it COULD, we’d all be posting resumes on INDEED. The thing is, we want to keep them dipping their toes in language. I am going to ask them to turn in work but I know it can’t be of the same quality as it would be if I were with them. I am going to choose to write positive feedback, send bitmojis, and even share my favorites on our class SnapChat. I am going to make sure to give them funny creative projects from the Wooly plans like singing with their family and doodling hilarious lyrics. I want them to feel like they are moving forward and like I am right there with them.

Oh… and as a final note: After school hours, I am going to do some things I never usually have time to do… like read and binge a Netflix show. Any suggestions?

What CI is… and isn’t.

You’ve probably heard (or even said) it. “I am having so much trouble with my classes since I tried CI. I am going to stop doing it.” Or maybe it was “CI is like a cult, I would never consider it.”

The problem is that CI means comprehensible input. Our options are: be comprehensible or be incomprehensible. What we mean in our frustration is that we aren’t finding success in techniques that we’ve learned and the textbook or curriculum we used in the past is looking really, really good.

The textbook for me, was a map. Honestly, and this is dating me, it is like a map I printed from MapQuest in 1999. It gave me one route to my destination and it did not account for any issues that might arise along the way. I sat in traffic many times because I didn’t know any other way to get somewhere.

Then came GPS. It was a fancy MapQuest. It read off the directions to you but still took you along one set route.

But GPS continued to evolve (like we do in our classroom practice) and now it is intuitive. When I put on Waze before I leave home, I choose my route but if there is a traffic jam or some other unforeseen circumstance, it re-routes me. Waze gets me where I need to go in the most efficient way.

CI can be story-telling, story asking, movie talks, authentic resources, readers for learners, units with targeted structures, units without targeted structures, units that reinforce a grammar point, units with music… You get it. If we can make the input comprehensible for our students, we are using CI.

Using a variety of input and not being trapped within the one or none map in the textbook helps us become Waze for our students. When the pieces aren’t fitting for them or they hit a road bump, we can come at the topic from another way. If they aren’t strong on a certain structure, we can put it on the back burner and return to it later when they’ve had some time to simmer in the language.

Often the route one group of students takes to acquiring language is completely different than the route of the class that follows them. Paying close attention to the cues coming from that internal GPS we have can help them stay on the path to becoming lifelong language learners.

Cure the Winter Blues

Warm up your winter with the unit the doctor ordered! Medicina o cura. From the free reading on essential oils to the backward designed unit that provides exposure to the subjunctive in context and some basic medical information for students going into the healthcare field.

We started with the Unit Hook today in class! Meet “Francine”, “Karen”, and “Marshell” (And the back up egg that got broken on the way to school… Her name is Mala suerte)

Shop the sale tomorrow (Feb 4) and Wednesday! Use the code FEBSALE to get 25% off!

Make Planning a Piece of Cake!

Whether you’re new to Somewhere to Share materials or an old friend, I hope that this February’s sale will help get you excited about planning for the rest of the year!

Everything is on sale! From my CI packed Rutina diaria unit to the best selling Mar de plástico and Comer para vivir! Each unit is designed with the end in mind using Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design as a foundation.

Help your students gain proficiency as they learn about real world issues and their role in the solution!

SDG Super Duper Bundle

Rutina diaria

Comer para vivir

Mar de plástico

Basura cero

Energía renovable

Medicina o cura

Viaja conmigo

El agua es vida

Educarse para superarse

Letting Joy Rule the Climate

Christmas break has given me some much needed time to relax! I can’t travel over my holiday breaks because when I get down time, I need it to be real DOWN time. I wear pajamas all day, I read a lot, I drink a TON of coffee…

Now that I feel recharged, my mind is moving toward the new year and my goals in the new year. I always like to have that “one word” to help me not over-do. With this on my mind, one of the points in my preacher’s sermon on Sunday really jumped out. He was talking about how we will not (in fact, can not) always be happy… but that we can have a spirit of joy.

In his sermon, he shared an analogy with us. Happiness is like a thermometer. It changes. It moves up and down. We can (and will) at times be very comfortable or very uncomfortable!

Happiness is just a thermometer. This can even change minute by minute throughout the day!

Joy is different. If we are really joyful in what we do, even in times when happiness is lacking, we will be able to go to work and truly feel like we are where we are supposed to be. Joy is like the thermostat. It sets the comfortable temp and helps maintain your comfort zone!

Joy helps set a constant temp that keeps us within our comfort zone.

I am not going to be happy every minute at work. I am a real human. My students are real humans. I will get frustrated. They will get frustrated. But if I can let joy set the climate in my classroom, I won’t dwell on the hard times. If I let joy set the climate in my classroom, I will celebrate the great things they CAN do instead of looking for ways they don’t measure up. Heck, if I can let joy set the climate in my classroom, that joy will trickle out to my home and my social interactions!

Happy new decade to you! I hope that this decade brings you much success and many wonderful memories both with your students and with your family. Travel a ton, eat delicious things, get lots of rest, and set your thermostat for a joyful new year!