Robo en la noche Ch 4 and the Copier

We had a great time today playing the game “The Copier” recommended to me by Kristy Placido via Cindy Hitz!

We had just read chapter 4 of the novel and students are starting to be familiar with some of the key topical vocabulary words in the novel.  In our version of the game we:

  • Broke into groups of 6 (in one class I had a group of 7 and one a group of 5 but 6 worked for most groups!)
  • Each student had a personal white board and marker.
  • I wrote a list of 8 key words and phrases on the board (el aviario, una jaula, el desayuno, cuidaba, pueden volar, cuenta un chiste, las aves, cortaron).
  • Groups were instructed that they should start with the first word (el aviario) and write a sentence of at least 6 words on their white boards.  The trick is that EVERY board has to be identical.  If they have a typo, they don’t get to advance to the next word!  I also gave them hints about errors like “birds are feminine” or “the cat isn’t a they”… When all were correct AND the same, they could advance to the next word.
  • The first team to complete all 8 words was the winner.  The other teams received a point for every word they had completed.  In one class, the first place team got to sit in the lounge during channel 1, in another they got to leave first… all depended on the timing of the class period!

This game was a lot of fun, it was a great way to review the action of the chapter and it was an easy pop up grammar lesson for students (level 2) who are into the intermediate zone and are ready to polish more!

Around the World Quiz

We are finishing up the novel Felipe Alou by Carol Gaab in Spanish 2.  It has been a great novel study but I’m always looking for ways to change up how we read!

Yesterday, since Ch 10 is an easy solo read, I had students individually read the chapter and create a 6 question comprehension quiz (in Spanish) about it.

After the quizzes were all created, I turned on some music and we got moving!  I call it the “around the world” quiz.

Each time the music played, students would move to the next seat and answer the next question on the quiz.  When the music stopped, they stood and rotated to the next spot in order to answer the next question!

It was fun to see them answering each other’s questions and at the end, they got to see how well their classmates did on the quiz they created!

Theme by Meme

Its no secret, I’m in a new school this year… and I miss my former students and coworkers so much… but the technology vacuum no longer exists for me.  It was such a fun yet frightening start to the year!  How was I (the one with no WiFi and no devices) going to adapt quickly and seamlessly to a school with smart-boards, 1:1 iPads… and my husband who is one of the two directors of tech even set me up with dual monitors on my computer so I could use both the PC and the smart board… Um… what?

My first thought was this smart board.  I wanted it to be in use, every day… even when we weren’t directly using it.  So I started theme by meme.  First order of business, secretly teaching Spanish 1 the days of the week… I put up a new meme every day… EVERY DAY… for 1 quarter.  Each meme was specifically targeted to the day of the week.  Not only was it great for Spanish 1, it was great review for Spanish 2-4.  I didn’t have to waste valuable class time with a “calendar project”, I subliminally packed those days into their minds!  🙂

From there, the memes turned to comedy.  I looked for some idiomatic expressions I’d like to share, cute pets, etc.  Just anything that would get a laugh.

At Christmas time, we shifted to all holiday memes and after break, we came back to los 3 Reyes.  Since then we have been in “love mode” with both sweet and sarcastic love memes every day.

My big moment is yet to come!  After Valentine’s day, I am shifting to ALL travel memes.  It is my subliminal message to them that America IS GREAT! but that it is just a corner or an amazing globe!  I want them to love their country but long to see ALL the countries.  My hope is that in the 9 weeks I spend meme-ing them messages about wanderlust, they’ll have this unexplainable desire to GO… and if they GO… they’ll never be the same again!

Tips for meme by theme:

  1. Google!  Just type your theme in your TL plus the word meme and see what you find.
  2. PINTEREST!  There are memes galore on Pinterest!
  3. Keep a folder within a folder.  My folder is called “a desktop background for everything”.  Inside the big folder I have “haven’t used yet”.  This folder contains all the memes I collect when I have a few free minutes… It helps me NOT need to search every day!
  4. Change the meme before you shut down your computer.  If it is already there in the morning, you don’t even have to remember to change it!
  5. Be prepared to be called the master of dank memes. 🙂


Breaking out: Vector novel style

In the summer, at iFLT in Chattanooga, TN, I attended a session by Leslie Davison on BreakoutEdu.  I had read all about breakout boxes but I’m a visual learner and something just wasn’t clicking for me.  I needed to experience it to really understand!  Leslie gave us just the experience I needed.  My team didn’t break out in our 45 minute time limit but we had a great time trying!

Knowing what a breakout looked like helped me see its place in my classroom.  I went to and got the list of supplies for a DIY breakout box, I ordered from Amazon and started working on our first class breakout.


A breakout box has a hasp with four locks: One 4 digit code, 1 directional lock that can have a combination up to 6 different different directional slides, 1 5 letter word lock, and a key lock.  In addition, there is a small box with a three digit lock code.

I wanted to create a breakout as a final activity for my Vector novel.  Making the clues and making them hard enough but not too hard is the trickiest part of a breakout!  Let me tell you a little about our breakout and the feedback I got from my class.  These are the things that will guide my writing in the final breakout that I create!

I started with the word lock.  The problem with the word lock is that each of the five spinners has a limited number of characters.  I went through the text considering all of the key words that contained 5 letters.  My choice of words “canal” was impossible with my word lock so I tried several other combinations.  Of my list of 8 choices, only one worked: “panel”.  Now that I had a word, I needed a way to give the clue.  I settled on a code.  I created a code of symbols, one for each letter of the alphabet, and then made wrote the clue (in Spanish) using the symbols.  Decoded, it said “you read this to get information in the museum”.

I locked the symbol key in the 3 digit code box and put the clue to decode in an envelope with a note that explained the problem.  The students were going to try to stop the worst premature explosion in the canal construction.  The explosion at Bas Obispo on December 12, 1908.


Now that I had important information in the 3 digit box, I needed a code.  I found out that ships brought 60,000,000 pounds of dynamite to Panama to be used in the construction.  I also found that a ship could carry as much as 400,000 pounds of dynamite in a shipment.  I printed these clues out (in Spanish) labeling the first A and the second B.  I also placed an equation in the room: A/B=?  Students had to figure out that they needed to divide 60,000,000 by 400,000.  150, the answer was the code of the 3 digit box.

I hung a series of images from towns along the canal in the early 1900s on my board.  Behind the image of Bas Obispo, I hung the key to the lock box.  I put dates on each image to give some possiblities for 4 digit codes.

I also hung a poster advertising jobs in the canal construction zone.  It was dated 1908 and invited workers to Bas Obispo. My hope was that between the photo museum and this poster, students would google Bas Obispo and find the date 12/12/1908. The date of the explosion.  I think I made the clues too easy because they didn’t have to use their technology to figure it out.  1212, the code on the four digit lock.


Finally, I had to give a clue for the directional lock.  I was determined to find a video that showed a transit of the canal with clear turns north, south, west, and east… but there were way too many twists and turns to use any of the videos.  What about a map?  I found a map, drew in some arrows, and gave some written instructions on how to navigate the canal.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be my worst clue.  The combination of arrows and written instructions was confusing.  I had to give an extra hint to help them get through this clue.  Definitely needs reworked!

The group broke out with 23:27 to spare!  We spent some time discussing the good and bad of the breakout.


Here is some feedback I’ll be working with as I redesign this breakout.  I thought it might be helpful to share as you’re designing your own breakouts.

  1. Our class of 24 is big so we didn’t all have something to do all of the time.  Some of the class was just watching.  Maybe we could break the clues up into groups in order to solve the locks.
  2. The clues were almost all too easy.  We figured the first ones out so fast that it might be nice to have to do research or figure more out on our own.
  3. The directional lock is really hard when you don’t know the number of movements in the combination.  Maybe this could be a clue in invisible ink.
  4. It would be fun to have the clues depend on us looking them up with our iPads.

Review for exams with Groupardy

It’s that time of year again… EXAMS!  My class is so proficiency based that it is hard sometimes to find a way to review the language in the same context they’ll use it in on the final!  So I invented “groupardy”… just a fun twist on good ole’ Jeopardy.

I’m attaching the full rules of play but I’ll tell you all about my review as well!

In level 1 and 2 we are taking an exam with listening (a sound clip from a native speaker friend introducing herself and a story read by me), reading (both an article from our scholastic magazine and a story created from class vocab), speaking (retell a story from class), and writing (retell a story from class).  How do you even review for that??  It seems to me that the main thing is to be sure students are comfortable and confident with the verbs and vocabulary that we’ve used to build our language proficiency this fall.

My 6 categories in both levels are:


The grammar category will just reinforce those popups we have had this year, describe it will focus on drawing out details about stories we’ve told, in Super 7 we will focus on the key verbs we’ve used to drive communication, cultural corner will be questions based on our units of study, people we know will be questions about characters from our novels, and finally action and adventure will focus on things we have done in class that they’ll remember as our class jokes or insiders… For example, in Spanish 2 when we were storytelling “El Banco” we were all victims of a bank robbery laying on the floor of the classroom.  I might ask them (in target) “Why did the class have to get on the floor of the bank?”  They would answer that the bank robbers were all trying to rob each other.

Adaptable for any review, I think Groupardy will be a fun way to get our classes freshened up on our semester’s worth of material before we tackle those exams on Wednesday!



The Power of a National Conference


In 2010, I joined my state language organization for the first time in several years.  I taught alone, in a rural school, and it seemed to me that the only reason to belong was to get a lower price for fall conference registration… BUT I WAS SO WRONG…

Since 2010, I have been 2nd Vice President, President Elect, and am about to take the presidency over in January… and I have some big shoes to fill!  What I’ve found through my service as a board member is that ICTFL is fighting the good fight for Illinois teachers.  Linda Egnatz, our immediate past president, brought us the Seal of Biliteracy… which is literally sweeping the nation and advocating for our language programs in a way that will have a lasting impact on our field.  Todd Bowen, another past president and board member of many hats, has brought us teacher leadership training through TALL-IL and valuable OPI training to help teachers understand how proficiency really develops!  This organization is fighting to have IL dump the language standards from the 90s and adopt the national standards, it is working to provide training to teachers around the state to help them build strong language programs, and it is connecting teachers to their region as a member of the Central States conference on Teaching of Foreign Languages (CSCTFL) and the nation as a member of ACTFL…

Being a member of all 3 of these organizations and attending all 3 conferences is incredible.  To see the number of teachers hungry to learn about using comprehensible language to teach their classes, to build high proficiency in language learners, and to reach out to the maximum number of language students possible is heart warming!  I saw sessions on film making, using commercials as comprehensible input, creating assessments that really assess proficiency, social justice, global engagement, and more!   As a profession, we are moving in an amazing new direction!  We are bringing the world and the language alive for our students and I love it!


I know that finances are always tight at school (and at home) but I want you to make a pledge to yourself.  Before you retire, you’ll take one opportunity (at least) to attend the regional and then the national conferences.  Imagine learning along side 8500 other language educators… Present, attend sessions, visit exhibitors, but most of all network!  Meet like minded teachers who will help you continue to grow as a teacher! In 2010, I thought ACTFL was a building in DC that housed books of state standards… Today I know better.  It is a living thing… It is tens of thousands of teachers working together to share, learn and grow.  And it is unbelievable!

Review Balloons

After finishing the first four chapters of Brandon Brown wants a dog, it was time for a review!  I selected 12 important events, printed them out, and cut them into strips.  I put one strip in each balloon (throw in some empty balloons for a fun and frustrating challenge)

In two teams, students raced to pop the balloons and bring the strips back to their team’s basket! 

Once all papers were collected in the basket, teams had to order the events as quickly as possible. 

It was a fun and fast (5min) interpretive reading with a twist!