It’s such a fun time of year, and it is a really important time of year for millions of Spanish-speakers around the world. There are some really cool opportunities to use this holiday time to show some of the cultural traditions that are both familiar and different for our students.
This week, on Monday and Tuesday, Teachers Pay Teachers is having their annual “Cyber Sale” which means everything in my store is 28% off (use the code CYBER2016 for the discount). I just wanted to share with you some of the items that might interest you as we head into the month of December.
As you might already know, I love using music in the classroom, and the holidays are no exception. I like to teach these 3 songs during the month of December to my Spanish 2 classes (this is the lowest level I teach right now).
En tus brazos estaré is a pop-song by Jesse y Joy. The video is adorable and features snowmen. A nice secular addition to your Christmas activities.
El burrito de Belén (aka El burrito sabanero) is a traditional Christmas song, but Juanes gives it an update. He makes everything better, let’s face it.
Noche de Paz is about as traditional as it gets, but this acapella version by La oreja de Van Gogh is super catchy and kids love it.
I’ve used this video in class for many years, and I am not sure why it took me so long to add it to my TPT resources. The video is called “Los padres no existen.” It features a little boy catching his parents placing gifts under the tree… I’ll let you watch and see what happens!
In the resource I have included a one-page informational reading about Los Reyes Magos, an activity for students to draw what they want the Reyes to bring to them (useful visuals for class discussion and then later as a display!), and activities to accompany the video itself, including a comic-style reading with screen shots.
My Christmas commercials pack is a great deal: 12 commercials and activities for 10 dollars! They make great warmups! Recommended for level 2 or higher.
Commercials are a really great way to infuse your language classes with a short burst of authentic language, but they are also really valuable as a vehicle for storytelling and discussion. Commercials are designed to be compelling and to elicit emotions. Paired with activities designed to make them comprehensible, commercials are wonderful for cultivating an environment of acquisition.
“Natural Approach teachers help make input comprehensible by providing extra-linguistic knowledge in the form of pictures and realia, and by modifying their speech.”
“All that is required (for acquisition to occur) is that the activity be interesting and comprehensible.”
─Fundamentals of Language Education,
Dr. Stephen D. Krashen 1992 www.sdkrashen.com
If there are several unfamiliar structures, you should plan to pre-teach those structures before introducing the commercial. TPR, personalized questions and answers, and storytelling are great pre-teaching techniques.
If the commercial tells a story, it is great for movie talk. Simply play the video, pausing frequently to talk about what is happening. Ask questions, using circling questions if new vocabulary/structures are being presented. Be sure to write new words on the board as well to maximize comprehension.
After pre-teaching, you might show the video itself or you might begin with still shots from the video.
A good next step after movie talk is to do a reading. Some options are to type up a description of the story in the commercial or to transcribe the commercial itself and use as a reading. During or after reading, be sure to ask questions. Ask comprehension questions, opinion questions, linking prior knowledge questions. If discussion takes over, allow it to happen.
Want to assess the activity? Some ideas…
Take those still screen shots, make statements and have students decide which image you are describing.
Provide students with a list of events in the target language and have them put them in order.
Have students match written statements with images.
Have students with more proficiency do a “retell.” Have them describe the still images from the commercial.
Something I have always struggled with is the way that my own pie-in-the-sky huge teaching ideas don’t always play out in real life the way they worked in my head. I start the year with these awesome summertime ideas that are going to be SO transformative, and then I get back to school in the fall. I am bombarded by details. I have students dropping and adding my courses for 2 weeks. I have one Spanish 3 class of 20 and one of 32. I am adding a brand new prep. I need to post my daily Essential Questions, standards, and agenda. I also must type them into Planbook.com. I must re-type them when my administrator can’t understand them in Spanish. We have handbook presentations and picture day and a bee’s nest outside our window. The first days of school are brutally hot and being a northern area we have no air conditioning. So, we do our best not to wilt and attempt to get things done. We have data to collect. Pre-test and post-test data. This data is 25% of my teacher evaluation this year which matters because tenure and seniority no longer protect me in the event of layoffs. A common department assessment will be coming all too quickly. This is the REAL WORLD.
I’ve been a TPRS/CI teacher for 18 years now. It was such a godsend when I found it. I was using Spanish for Mastery to teach 7th and 8th graders when I went to my first Melinda Forward workshop. I later found Blaine Ray, who Melinda had learned from, and Karen Rowan (who stayed at my house and borrowed my blazer when her luggage didn’t arrive and then did an awesome workshop in spite of being in her comfy airplane pants with my blazer), and I made connections with some other Michigan teachers. A group of 5 of us from Michigan (I am the last of the group still teaching!) began e-mailing each other as kind of a “TPRS support group” and that tiny group in 1999 became the “MoreTPRS list.” Over the years, that group was a lifeline for me. It still exists, but for me personally, email groups became cumbersome and I drifted toward twitter and facebook for my professional support. It has been such an incredible journey full of growth and collegial support.
It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve never taught in a “total TPRS” department. I have, however, been really blessed to work with colleagues who have been willing to share, negotiate, and compromise. I’ve compromised some things in the name of collegiality, and I’ve compromised other things in the name of sanity. But all in all, I’ve done pretty well.
I am passionate about my students and their language acquisition. I believe wholeheartedly in doing what is best for kids. I try my hardest everyday to make what I believe in my heart and my mind match up and fit in as tightly as possible with my teaching reality.
I call myself a CI teacher. Comprehensible input is based on one of Dr. Stephen Krashen’s hypotheses (The Input Hypothesis). The underlying connection between various approaches/activities that fall under the umbrella of “CI” or “TCI” is that the teacher provides input in the target language, and does what is necessary to make the input comprehensible to students.
CI teaching (also known as TCI) can include many approaches/activities such as TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling), Movie Talk, discussing our weekend or weekend plans for the future, discussing an authentic photo/video/film/work of art using comprehensible language, the “Persona Especial” interview created by Bryce Hedstrom, any personalized task that leads to a comprehensible discussion, reading and discussing stories or novels, and more.
TPRS is a VERY good way to teach. It may very well be the best way to teach languages ever. I love it. I am 100% pro-TPRS. However…the real world… I am a wife and mom and I have lots of things going on outside of my work day. I am naturally an introvert. This doesn’t mean that people scare me or that I don’t like talking to people. What it means is being around people drains my energy. TPRS super-duper drains my energy. It is a very “on stage” process. It is a VERY SOCIAL process and depends heavily on give and take between students and teacher and a sense of playfulness. I mentally cannot handle using TPRS every hour every day. It burns me out. Even though I believe in it and am reasonably good at it, I need other techniques. I know many people who are both introverts and extroverts who are very good at TPRS. I know the extroverts feed off the energy of a TPRS class, while the introverts feel much more drained at the end of the day. For us introverts, it is really nice to have a tool kit of other CI techniques to use when we need a little break from the emotional intensity of TPRS. With that said…keep doing TPRS as much as you can!
I am a huge believer in the power of reading. I have written several novels. My novels are designed specifically with my own students in mind. I write them to be a compelling story and a good read, but I also fold in lots of conversation and related cultural topics to the novel that I feel the kids truly enjoy. I also like the idea of doing SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) in class. I think we can do both. I also provide my students with readings I create based on stories we co-create.
The reading you select and provide to your students, whether written by you, the teacher, or not, needs to be comprehensible and level-appropriate. A longer read, such as a novel, is going to provide more intense, repeated exposure to a narrower group of structures. If students are frustrated and you feel the need to pre-teach 30 words before each chapter, you have not selected a level-appropriate novel. If you are trying to read a first novel with a level 1 class and they are not having fun, it is probably because they need more babystepping and input and are just not ready yet. Put the novel away, keep using TPRS, and come back to it when they have acquired more. I have a student this year in Spanish 2 who is new to me. Unsolicited, he told me yesterday that he really liked reading the Piratas novel last year (Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto by Mira Canion and Carol Gaab). He said he had been struggling with Spanish a lot but when he started reading that novel things started to click for him. He was not in a TPRS class. But his teacher taught that novel and it had been a bright spot for him. For more help on teaching novels, hop on over to CI Peek. I wrote a series of posts on that very topic!
Ideally, for class SSR, the teacher would have a vast array of diverse reading materials that are level-appropriate so as to allow SSR to truly feel like “free choice.” I have collected quite a library of children’s books, non-fiction books, YA novels, magazines, and even things I print from the internet. This takes time. You’ll get there. I like to do SSR a couple of times per week, and I try to only have them read for as long as they enjoy reading. I start with 5 minutes at a time and go up from there as their interest and stamina increases. Sometimes as the year goes on I start neglecting my SSR time. I think this is a mistake, but it is an easy trap to fall into. But the remedy is, do SSR tomorrow!
Research tells us that we can acquire languages without any curriculum or learning targets at all. All we really need is lots and lots of compelling, comprehensible input. I wish I taught in a situation where I had no curriculum, no standards, no benchmarks, no grades, no common assessments and I could just shoot the breeze all day with kids. But then I wake up from my dream, shower, and drive to school. And I realize that there ARE certain words I need to make sure they know because I have a common assessment to prepare them for. I also have to show my administrators a unit plan and daily lesson plans. Parents are going to be expecting LOTS of numbers in ParentConnect, and soon.
The next problem is I start realizing how boring I actually am. Maybe I am a horrible conversationalist, but I do need to think of things to talk about ahead of time. I cannot totally be organic, free flow, willy nilly. It is just not in my nature. I used to teach with Blaine Ray’s Look! I Can Talk! It has a lot of cute and silly stories in it. I still like it. But back then, there weren’t many “ancillary” items with it. I needed some structure. I needed DAILY structure or I just felt like I was going crazy. By basing my vocabulary and cultural teaching around a novel each quarter, I feel so much more at ease. The funny thing is, the more I prepare, the easier it is to actually let go of my own “uptight-ness” and have a fun discussion or story. I cannot allow myself to go to school feeling stressed out every single day. I know there are teachers who can simply show up and make awesome things happen. I applaud them, I really do, but I just don’t think everyone works that way. And I think it is ok for us to not all be the same. Guess what? It really is ok. You’ll be ok. The kids will be ok. They will be ok in spite of the million mistakes you make. They will be ok in spite of the research you ignored when you did that speaking activity.
Every now and then I find myself playing the dangerous game of comparing. Comparing myself to others. Holding myself up to impossible standards. Feeling like I should change everything because I just read a really revolutionary blog post. Wondering “what if?” What if they could have acquired more? What if I hadn’t skipped SSR all last month? What if I hadn’t been so lazy and stayed more in the target language instead of telling them another story about my family? What can I do? I live in the real world. It isn’t a race. It isn’t a competition. It is just a journey to be a little better tomorrow than I was today. And maybe be a little kinder to myself too.
In my district we have been required to turn lesson plans in to our administration for about 5 years or so. It seems to have gradually become a more and more cumbersome process, but through lots of thought and discussion with my (awesome and very supportive, and unfortunately for me returning to the classroom this year!) evaluating administrator I feel like I have figured a few things out about the process. I frequently have people ask me questions at conferences and workshops about how to align a CI curriculum to standards and how to communicate our enduring understandings / daily goals / essential questions / etc. to our administrators. I am going to try to break down my own approach to lesson planning and I hope you will reply in the comments with your own tips/tricks and suggestions!
Our school requires us to use Planbook.com and honestly I really like it. If your school doesn’t have a subscription, individual teachers can subscribe for only $12 per year!
Planbook allows you to share your plan with others if you choose, attach documents, and add links. It also allows you to create “templates.” Templates make my life so much easier! It means I don’t have to type the same things every day.
Notice in my template, “Assessments” and “Standards” are a link. I have created documents which explain HOW my regular-talk lesson plan aligns to my “fancy talk” standards. This way, I unpacked my standards ONCE in terms of the types of general activities I do and never need to deal with it again. My administrator is satisfied with this and my life is easier.
The “Assessments” link is a document I created which explains the way I formatively assess on an ongoing basis. For a planned summative assessment, I add that into the day’s plan as an addition under the assessments link.
Where do the links go? I have created Evernote notes for these documents and linked to them. A google document would also work beautifully. I selected Evernote for this purpose because you can attach files to the note itself for future reference.
I made these posters for my wall (you can download them free). If you look on the board, you will see little corresponding magnets. That is how I satisfy my admin’s desire to see my daily “meeting the standards” posted (we all know students can’t learn without that, right?).
In my Evernote note “Standards” which I link to my Planbook lesson plan template, my administrator sees this. Feel free to copy, adapt, use in your own lessons!
Under the “Assessments” link, administrators see this.
I can statements, essential questions, and enduring understandings, OH MY!
Teachers have a much harder time coming up with these types of statements with CI teaching than with grammar-based or textbook teaching. I want to share some examples of how to “talk the talk” that administrators are looking for.
Sample “CI” I can statements (these are all in my unit plan – keep reading!)
(These examples are from my unit on the novel Noches misteriosas en Granada.)
comprehend a level-appropriate novel
narrate in Spanish
discuss theme, plot and characters in Spanish
ask and answer basic questions about a novel
interpret basic information from authentic resources related to Spain, the Alhambra, the city of Granada
identify family relationships
comprehend and respond appropriately to questions about a story
interpret level-appropriate spoken Spanish
describe a person’s travel experience
explain a sequence of events
identify traits of different people
locate on a map and discuss the spatial relationships of places on the map
For essential questions, I tend to focus not on linguistic topics (we all know by now that proficiency is a very unconscious and individual process, not something that students can speed up unnaturally, right?) but rather cultural and thematic issues I want students to understand as a RESULT of having comprehended everything we’ve done.
Again these examples are from Noches misteriosas en Granada.
How does a friendship change over time?
Are there times when the lines between reality and fiction can get blurry?
How do different people react when they are afraid?
How do you deal with a bully?
Are there differences in things like table manners in different countries?
Another time-saver that administrators have approved of is my unit planning. Each unit I teach has a detailed document (use a google drive folder or an evernote note) in which I gather all of my resources together and explain my plan for activities, outcomes and assessments.
This document is not pretty or polished! It is a living document that I edit each time I teach the unit. I can provide my administrator with the link and then in Plan book I can say “See unit plan for more details.”
3rd prize is your choice of any resource in my TPT store FREE!
How do you enter? There are 3 ways to enter. If you do all 3, you will be entered 3 times.
Like my facebook page Teaching in Target by Kristy Placido and leave a comment on the “Back to school Raffle” post. In your comment, tell me which resource in my TPT store you like the most or what resource you hope to get in the future.
Follow my blog, kplacido.com by email. Comment on THIS blog post. Tell me which resource in my TPT store you like the most or what resource you hope to get in the future.
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This contest begins NOW and will end at 5pm Eastern time Friday, August 12. I will do 3 random drawings of all the entries and announce the winners on Saturday morning!
I saw this meme of facebook recently, and realized how much this really resonates with me and so many other teachers! Going back to school is a really emotionally-charged experience for kids (and teachers).
For kids, they feel most or all of the following:
Nervous about everything unknown
Fearful about whether their teachers will like them
Anxious about whether they have “changed” over summer and whether this will finally be “their year” to become cool/popular/smart/accepted (think about all the “teen” movies where the hero somehow gets transformed and gains social acceptance).
Grieving over their lost freedom
Depressed about their own social situation or relationship status
Overwhelmed at the huge task looming of “getting through” a whole school year
Hopeful that they will like their classes/teachers/activities
Worried that they won’t do well or that they will look stupid in front of teachers/peers
Resolved to make positive changes for the new year
Dreading the feeling of being forced to comply with rules they don’t like/agree with
Tired at the very thought of getting up at 6am for the next 180 school days
Excited about returning to the place where they get to see their friends everyday in person instead of just over Snapchat!
As teachers, we feel many of these same emotions. We need to be really cognizant of the high-intensity emotional situation we are all in as we head back!
Personally, I think we can find some ways to establish relationships and become comfortable with Spanish class without awkward ice breakers. I’d like to share some things I’ve tried that have worked well in the past as well as how I plan to begin this year.
Circling with balls
I know. It sounds dirty. It is NOT! Ben Slavic came up with this term to describe how his novice classes operate during the first couple weeks of school. The “balls” refer to the various sports that kids enjoy playing or watching. In reality you can also discuss video games, dance, rapping, movies, or whatever kids in your class feel passionate about. I highly recommend you learn about this process directly from the man himself by clicking here!
I find that this activity is a great way to learn some really basic high-frequency language structures, but even better, it immediately puts the focus on the students in a very positive way. It feels more like genuine “getting to know each other” and less like an icebreaker. I used this faithfully in Spanish 1 for years. Unfortunately I don’t teach Spanish 1 anymore, but you can still make this type of discussion technique work in any level.
I frequently type up short readings based on the things we have learned about each other in class. We review each day about the sports/activity knowledge we gain from each member of the class and at the end of the couple of weeks it takes to get through everyone I give a comprehension test about the discussions we’ve had.
2.Teach like a Pirate: Play Doh!
I had the honor of meeting Dave Burgess and watching him “perform” as he taught world language teachers how to teach like pirates at iFLT 2013 (and he returned in 2014 which was also awesome!).
One of the many cool tricks Dave shared was his “Play doh” lesson to begin classes for the year. Basically the way it translated into my class was very similar to the “circling with balls” unit. I bought a big multi-pack of play dough and gave each kid a can of dough and a plastic plate to work on. I instructed them to create a sculpture that represented themselves, their summer, their passions, or anything that they wanted to represent themself out of the play doh. I gave them about 5-7 minutes. At first I wanted to be super controlling and limit them to one color and keep them from making a mess, but I realized that would defeat the whole purpose so I stopped being like that.
After they made their creations, I asked a LOT of questions, using Spanish, keeping it simple, writing lots on the board, using cognates, etc. I did MOST of the talking. Caveat: If you want to talk about EVERY kid, it will take more than one class period. You will need a place to store their sculptures and enough play doh so that all kids can make a sculpture if the earlier classes aren’t putting theirs back in the can! Sp think about this ahead of time!
The next year I went to using chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners). It was still pretty fun, but you cannot deny the novelty of high schoolers getting to use play doh!
3. This year, I am going to do circling with balls with my new level 2s (freshmen; they don’t know me and will be new to “CI”). I addition, I will play “human bingo” with them, toward the end of week 1 after we have bonded a bit. Human bingo is a more traditional icebreaker, but it is quick enough to hold their interest and non-personal enough to alleviate anxiety.The TRICK to this activity is after you use it, you discuss the results. For example, one of the bingo squares is “listens to country music.” The teacher can ask after the activity, “How many of you do listen to country music?” (This is always taking place in the TL, with lots of support and comprehension checking, adding new words to the board, pointing at new words when you use them again.) “Ohhhhh, Connor, I see that you listen to country music. Do you like Eric Church? Yes? Ohhhhh, class, Connor likes to listen to Eric Church. Are there any other fans of Eric Church here in my class? What is your favorite song by Eric Church?” You can use these discussion techniques for virtually ANY of the questions on the bingo survey.
In level 3, most of them know me and we know each other, so the ice has been broken. We will do the play doh activity for fun, and we will also be doing a survey activity about our pets and our personalities. (Spanish 2 will also do this activity but i will save it for week 2!) This activity involves a little more independent reading (which they are totally ready for!) and it will allow me to really “milk” the discussion with them and get them immersed in that sweet sweet Spanish CI that they’ve been missing all summer! In addition, as part of our “discussion time” I am going to have them answer some questions using my 4-corners posters. I have these posters up around the room all the time which allows me to do really quick little “surveys” where students vote with their feet.
For example, I can say (in Spanish), “Using the ORANGE posters…I agree / I disagree…Do you agree with this: ‘I am an adventurous person.’ [students move to the posters] Now…the non-adventurous people move over to the side of the room. Of the people who say ‘I am adventurous’ how do you react to this? ‘I have a cat.’ ”
The article we have already read at this point says that people with cats are more adventurous.So we can now use this as a discussion point about whether the article was accurate or not in that regard.
In Spanish 5, they love two activities A LOT: playing Mafia and playing “Would you rather.” I will probably not indulge them with a game of mafia right away, but we will begin our adventures by playing “¿Cuál Preferirías?” with a twist. We will play using the agree/disagree posters and add lots of discussion to the game. There are questions such as “Would you rather never brush your teeth or never wash your hair?” So, you can get out your agree / disagree posters (you don’t have to BUY these posters by the way. Take a marker and write agree/disagree on 2 pieces of paper and tape them to the wall!) and say in the TL “Who agrees that if the choice is never brush teeth or never wash hair that you would rather never brush your teeth?” Then you can ask WHY questions. And you can get really complex if it is level 4 or 5! Think of questions such as “If you were going on a date with someone super good-looking, and could ONLY do one thing…brush your teeth or wash your hair, which would you choose?”
Later in the week, we will also play “Circumlocution.” In this game, students are given pictures of items they probably do not know the name of an they must describe in the TL what the item is. Their partner guesses in English. If their partner can’t guess, the opposing team/pair gets to guess. A really fun way to let them do some output and also to drive home the point that communication skills beat vocabulary every time.
So, how do YOU start the year in your CI class? By the way, please like my facebook page! I try to share things of interest primarily for Spanish teachers, and I am going to offer a couple of giveaways there for my followers during the month of August!
I am revamping what I teach in Spanish 3 this year! We have moved some novels around and also some new novels have come out that I wanted to teach! People always ask “What do YOU teach?” so I try to keep up-to-date with it on my blog for people who either need a little guidance or for those who are just plain curious!
We have 2 18 week semesters and meet for 55 minutes each day. Each of my semesters contains two major units anchored by a novel.
I started my Teachers Pay Teachers store last year, and I didn’t have a level 3 class. Look for lots of new items to be added to my store this year that I will be using with Spanish 3! If I reference it in this post, you will be seeing it in my TPT store this year! Everything I sell is something I have used with my own students. I know I could make money selling lots of other items but I want to keep it real, and besides, I don’t have time to waste making materials I don’t plan to use myself!
NOTE: In addition to the novel and culture units listed here, we also watch El Internado on Fridays as well as do many activities with our “song of the week.”
Thematic songs/videos/films: Te dejo Madrid by Shakira, Blood Brothers documentary, Blancanieves (various videos), Blancanieves feature film.
Overview: I begin by teaching the story of Snow White TPRS-style. I teach the story, we do lots of acting, and I movie talk a short Snow White video. We watch the film Blancanieves which I movie talk several scenes from and do several readings based on the film (with all films, PREVIEW first. There is one scene I cut.). During the film we begin discussing bullfighting terms. I also use the video for “Te dejo Madrid” by Shakira as a movie talk and further discuss bullfighting.
I also teach the story of Ferdinand.
We then read Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos by Carrie Toth. I follow the teacher’s guide for the novel.
Kara Jacobs has an awesome blog post about teaching this novel here!
View clips from show “Grimm” to intro La llorona legend [Grimm Season 2 episode “La llorona” (on Hulu) (first few moments are great! don’t need to watch whole episode! –and in Spanish! Then show very end also)]
Whether you couldn’t get funding for #iFLT16, couldn’t fit it in your schedule, or couldn’t register before the conference filled up, you will be SO glad to read this news!
The #iFLT16 Tuesday morning Keynote with Bill VanPatten and the Tuesday afternoon Roundtable with Stephen Krashen will be LIVE STREAMED! Join us Tues., July 19 at 8:50a.m. & 1:15p.m. EST To join remotely, go to www.mycsas.com. Scroll down past the iFLT announcement and click on CSAS Broadcasting. It is not possible to stream the entire conference, and we are so grateful that the host school, Chattanooga School of Arts & Sciences, has gone out of their way to make it possible for the conference sponsors to live stream these important sessions and make them available gratis to the general public!
Want even MORE great news?? Three teacher-authors have teamed up to offer a series of three 1-hour webinars tackling the question…