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.
Thank you so much for sharing my units with your students. When I use them in my classroom, it makes me so happy to see my own students connect with the environment, current issues, and the world beyond my classroom. When you share YOUR students’ reactions to the units, it brings me even more joy because I know that the more these students know about our changing planet, the more likely they are to become good stewards of what we have!
To show my appreciation, my store will be 25% off tomorrow (May 7) and Wednesday (May 8) using the code: GIFT4YOU Have you picked up my latest unit Basura cero yet? It will be a great price during the sale and it will help your students wrap their minds around living with less waste!
Have a great last few weeks! My seniors are in their last week now and they are set to record some videos for their Nat Geo explorer partners from the group Jacana Jacana! We have had an awesome year learning more about the rain and dry forests and the cloud forest! If you haven’t heard of Nat Geo certification, I talked about it here!
My juniors have nearly 3 full weeks left so we are ending with a virtual trip to the Galápagos with my newest reader 48 horas and some of my supplementary resources:
I’m working on a travel unit that I used with my 4s this year but would like to bring down to level 2, a unit about body image based around a music video, and a unit on clean energy worldwide! I wish I could make more hours in the day so I could get them done AND juggle end of the year craziness at school!
Thank you again for sharing my units with your students! Please share pictures on social media so I can see what you guys are up to!!
This week one of my senior boys in Spanish 4 came to class very happy. His English class was reading a Shakespearean piece and he had really been struggling. He said, “but then she gave me this (flashes graphic novel in my direction)!!! It’s the same story but I totally understand it!!!” What a cool thing to do! We know that reading builds vocabulary in L1 and in L2, but with less text, how do graphic novels build proficiency? Well, I am not sure what the exact brain processes are but it works…
“Comics can also convey a great deal of information in a short time, while allowing the reader to control the pace of reading and re-reading,” says Tracy Edmunds, a curriculum specialist. “And research shows that processing text and images together leads to better recall and transfer of learning.”
We read a ton of Fluency Matters readers in my department. 4 per year! But we also read the Señor Wooly graphic novels. As much as my students gain from reading as a class and having common discussion, I feel like the medium of the graphic novel offers them the ability to build proficiency in different ways!
A graphic novel is a story rich in images, a lot like a movie talk. While there isn’t a heavy amount of text on the page, there is a heavy amount of story in the illustrations! This lets us make predictions, describe, and discuss in a lot of different ways! Have you ever given one a try?
In Spanish 2, we read Billy y las Botas… the Graphic Novel. We have seen the very first Billy video and Billy y las Botas 1 when we read it. From their prior experience, I use predictions to have them say what might be the same/different in the graphic novel. That’s high level language for a Spanish 2 class! The rich visuals really help them develop the proficiency to narrate a detailed story!
In Spanish 3, we read La casa de la Dentista. Again, we have seen the video for La Dentista but this reader is part of a unit on the supernatural in our culture and around the world. We are going to do some heavy reading: La Calaca Alegre, adapted versions of Chac Mool, El almohadón de plumas, and La casa tomada. Starting with the graphic novel lets me do a couple of important things!
The first story of the unit is at the reading level of ALL my level 3 learners. Nothing gets them more fired up about a unit than starting with a confidence building read.
The images helped me emphasize adding detail! This is an important intermediate skill! When they can see the story, they can make a movie in their head about what’s happening… learning to do this through graphic novels helps them try to “see” the story in text heavy resources.
“We live in a visual culture, bombarded with ads and content,” says teacher Marika McCoola. “While students are taught to read in school, they’re not often taught to read visuals. In order to prepare our students, we need to address visual literacy in addition to verbal literacy. Graphic novels and comics are one way to bring this visual literacy into the classroom.”
With a brand new Señor Wooly graphic novel in production… make a space for it next year… consider trying out this type of reading! Jim and I share some ideas for how to do it here on senorwooly.com. We didn’t make the cut for ACTFL next year… do you think the title was too risque?… but Jim and I both think graphic novels are a key piece to a classroom reading program. Check them out here.
I had gone to Aldi with my good friend, a Sunday-post-church thing we do, to buy all of my healthy food for the week… You see, my resolution was to show love to myself this year… take time to get my eating, my finances, and my life in order! I had been really, really over extending myself!
When I got home and started to prep the fruits and veggies for the week, I ended up with this:
I felt terrible! If I was making this every Sunday (never mind all the ziplocs I was putting my fruits and veggies in), imagine the footprint I was leaving with my waste habits. So I started reading… I’m a sciency gal, it’s what I do. 🙂
I found lots of cool replacement things… Bamboo toothbrushes, reusable bags and bowl covers… compostable coffee pods…
But I knew I wanted to get my students thinking about their footprint as well. They LOVE units that challenge them to think (in Spanish) about the world and their place in it. Basura cero was born! We did the unit in Spanish 4 and they blew me away with their final assessments. So much of what is here is because of the way they responded as we studied the topic!!
My dear friend Nelly Hughes (check out her amazing products here) proofed the unit and now it is ready to share with everyone! I hope that together we can really start to raise awareness of the many ways to use less, waste less, and compost more!
Check out Basura cero here and if you’re looking to teach the Sustainable Development Goals look at my other units like:
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!