Spanish Civil War Unit in Spanish 4 – Instagram Imagery

guerra civil insta SQUARE COVERI really love the concept of #instagramELE and I also love the idea of tying social media into lessons from history. Since I am home on my 3rd snow day in the last 4 school days, I am getting tons of work done! Too bad I didn’t bring home my stack of week-old quizzes to correct!

We have so far completed our Timeline Activity and we have watched the movie Butterfly. By the way, I only teach Spanish 4 every other year, and I realized that my movie only had English subtitles. I am going to have to get one with only Spanish subtitles because since we have been using El Internado weekly in class, my students really don’t need English subtitles! But Spanish closed-captioning is very helpful!  We are moving toward our final project which is creating an art gallery, but first we have a novel, some additional readings, 2 more films, Guernica, and the film short El Ambidiestro to study!

Since our culminating project focuses on imagery, I thought bringing Instagram into the mix might be a great way to get kids connecting their learning to images.

I created this project, which I am happy to share with you (It is a FREE resource). You may need to create your own calendar, but it provides a model for you of how you can implement the project.

I also have a couple of other items that you might find useful if you are teaching about the Spanish Civil War. I have a reading activity about the Niños Robados of Spain (FREE resource). I also have a packet I created with a mini-biography of Federico García Lorca and comprehension activity which I sell.

I will continue to update on how my unit is going in Spanish 4…if the snow ever stops! Happy Spring!

Spanish Civil War Unit in Spanish 4 – Timeline Activity

We are just beginning our study of the Spanish Civil war in Spanish 4 and I decided I’d like to update with a fresh series of blog posts.

On Thursday we kicked off with a timeline activity which was created by Carrie Toth for the Teacher Resource Guide of La Hija del Sastre. I used the directions in the teacher’s guide to create a huge timeline on a large sheet of paper. I printed out the events from the teacher’s guide. Students got into groups of 4, and I gave each group 1-2 events (I am fortunate to have 2 Spanish 4 classes of 19 students each!). No English was allowed, and students collaborated to make sense of the timeline. After they placed their papers, I told them how many they had wrong. After about 3-4 tries they had it right. We then did a reading activity about some of the major events from the timeline (also included in the teacher’s guide). Students then tried to fill in their own smaller timeline from memory (they were allowed to get up and look if they needed to).

This was a fun way to process some “dates and facts.” This week we will start digging into the unit more. They will get their Art Gallery assignment and we will begin watching La Lengua de las mariposas.

Students work together to place the events on the timeline.
Students work together to place the events on the timeline.


Kiva! Video contest!

1st place Sarah
2nd place Stephanie
3rd place David

Congratulations! You each get extra credit (not that you need it!) as well as you may select a recipient for a Kiva loan from me! Way to go!


Spanish 4 and 5 students created videos to promote specific borrowers from Kiva. The top 3 vote-getters will be able to choose a borrower for a $25, $75 and $100 loan from Señora Placido and will also receive extra credit!

Please vote for your favorite. You may decide the criteria for what makes it your favorite! 🙂 Check back soon for more links as they are turned in!

Hannah      Emily H.     Holly

Marissa     Olivia     Alex      Jordan     Tucker

Kayle     McKinzie     Emily Q.     Alyssa L.


Future ideas for stations

Stations are a fun alternative to traditional whole-class activities!
Stations are a fun alternative to traditional whole-class activities!

I am going to use this post to compile ideas for future stations, general or specific! Feel free to comment if you’d like to add your own ideas! – Using a reading that we would do in class, create a textivate. My station can be located in front of the big screen and use my wireless mouse and keyboard with my desktop computer! (Accountability: group takes a screen shot of completed puzzle and saves on computer at designated location.)

Commercials – Create a cloze activity, Q&A, put phrases in order, etc with any of these commercials.

Puppet Pals – Using my ipad in Guided Access mode (locks the ipad so that only the chosen app can be used until a PIN is entered by me), students create an animated video. NOTE: because ipad won’t turn off in Guided Access mode, bring a power cord! – Set up on a computer with a google doc listing several articles. Students choose an article to read together as a group and use lingro for when they need a word defined. A good introduction to this useful tool?

Jenga game / Don’t Break the Ice game – both of these games can be labeled with a permanent marker with numbers or letters. Provide the students with a list of questions or “problems” that correspond to the letters or numbers on the game. By answering the questions/completing the task/problem correctly students get to play that game piece.

Good old-fashioned flash cards. A simple idea but could make a good station!

I have a large “library” of children’s books and magazines in Spanish. I would LOVE ideas for incorporating these into stations. Currently we do Sustained Silent Reading twice a week for 5 minutes in my level 2 classes. Ideas?


Stations – What I’ll do next time

I had a great time doing stations the past two days. The absolute best part for me was the station where I sat with each group and just conversed. It was really fun and I definitely got a feel for who is really on their game and who needs a little bit of help. 

The listening stations were GREAT! The only minor problem was the audio book CD station took 9 minutes and the other stations tended to go more quickly. I will try more carefully to balance out the times. The kids really liked the 2 music stations.

The describing the scenes station was good but needed some accountability. I tried having them record but ran into a few glitches. I need to think about that one some more.

Bananagrams station was a lot of fun but some groups were more into it than others. I might offer a choice of a couple of different games. I really want to get a Jenga game to make into an activity center! (I saw a cool idea on pinterest…more later!)

The cognate station was also good, but again, could have used some accountability.

Next time I will have groups rotate IN ORDER and set a timer. By the end there were a couple of groups who didn’t get into certain stations because there was no order to the whole thing.

I ended up putting out an Apples to Apples game in Spanish as an extra “bonus” station. They actually played it! I will use games more for sure next time!

All in all it was a success and will definitely be revisited in many forms in the future!



Today I tried stations in my class for the first time! It was great! I had 7 stations (since my largest class is 34!).

Station 1: Waka Waka (the “song of the week” this week)

Waka Waka Station

I cut the lyrics of this song into strips. I also wrote a 33-letter sentence along the left side of each of the 33 strips. “Shakira is from the country of Colombia.” I plugged a Belkin 5-port headphone jack splitter into a desktop computer and attached 5 sets of headphones. Students played the music video from Vevo on the computer as many times as needed to line up the lyrics in the right order.

Station 2: Superman es ilegal (song from movie “La Misma Luna” which we are in the process of watching right now–they heard the song in the movie yesterday).

Superman es ilegal Station

I made a large cloze activity out of the song lyrics. Instead of writing the missing words in, the words were on little slips of paper which had to be physically placed on the space in the lyric sheet. The whole lyrics sheet was the size of 8 sheets of paper which I taped together.  I plugged a Belkin 5-port headphone jack splitter into my classroom’s Chromebook (thanks so much to @edbacker, an anonymous donor, and Hudgins Real Estate for the financial support on that!) and attached 5 sets of headphones. Students played the song from Youtube on the computer as many times as needed.

Station 3: Esperanza

Book on CD Station with Esperanza by Carol Gaab


Students listened to the next chapter of their novel, Esperanza by Carol  Gaab on the audio CD.  I plugged a Belkin 5-port headphone jack splitter into a desktop computer and attached 5 sets of headphones. I provided novels for students to use if they wanted to follow along as well.


Small group conversations with Señora Placido!










Station 4: Conversations!

I sat with students in this group and we chit-chatted en Español about their plans for that afternoon, what sports they play/watch, and the book we are reading in class. SO FUN!


La misma luna scene description station

Station 5: La Misma Luna

I made some screen shots of the DVD and printed them out. In this group, students worked together to describe their photos based on their knowledge of the movie. I started out also having them make a puppet pals video (an app I have on my ipad) but I abandoned that for lack of time after the first class.

Find the cognates in the children’s books!

Station 6: Cognates

I made a large alphabet on a huge sheet of paper. I put a sticky note next to each letter. Students searched through my large collection of children’s books trying to find at least 1 cognate for each letter, and no more than 5 for any given letter. This was pretty easy, but hopefully tricked them into finding some new books to read for SSR next week!

Station 7: Bananagrams

Students played bananagrams in Spanish!

A game makes a quick station and a nice brain break!














Authentic resources versus TPRS? Or a happy marriage of the two?

This week’s #langchat was a particularly lively discussion. The topic was about choosing texts that best promote proficiency. However, it seemed that there was a debate forming about the value of authentic resources (#authres) and whether or not TPRS teachers would use them.

I am usually considered a “TPRS teacher.”  Makes sense considering that I present at the National TPRS Conference as well as at TPRS Publishing’s summer conferences and have even co-authored some TPRS curriculum. However, for the past couple of years I have been calling my self a “CI teacher.” CI, or Comprehensible Input, refers to Dr. Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis. I use many of the elements of TPRS every day, but since I do not specifically focus on storytelling all of the time, or adhere to all of the steps of TPRS, I feel that “CI teacher” is a better descriptor of my methodology.

Personally, I also really enjoy finding, sharing, and using authentic resources in my classroom. On Thursday, during #langchat, I felt like there were some attempts to pin down the exact role of #authres in the classroom. I would like to share my view on this as well as I how I treat #authres in my own classes.

First of all, I do believe that my classes should be VERY comprehensible. I don’t like a lot of ambiguity. And as a general rule, the less interesting something is, the less ambiguity high schoolers are going to tolerate. So, in selecting an #authres I am looking for something that is readily comprehensible, or at least comprehensible enough that I can exploit it for some teacher-provided comprehensible input.

For instance, if I want to discuss a news story, I might show my students an article or a short video about it (in Spanish). However, if the items are incomprehensible, I might use them primarily as a visual and speak about them myself in simpler language, focusing on a small amount of new vocabulary, relying on cognates, visuals, and previously-acquired vocabulary, and using very natural grammar and syntax. For higher-level classes, I might even type up an “embedded reading” in which I simplify the story for reading/discussion prior to delving in to the authentic resource.

Secondly, I believe that my classroom should be robust with language. I want to narrow the focus onto a handful of structures at a time (for instance, on Friday in Spanish 1 my students worked with the phrases “eats with good/bad manners; takes the food; doesn’t see that X happens) while recycling previous high-frequency structures (I was recycling puts, wants, likes–among others). While authentic resources are beautiful and look impressive, I cannot get as deep into conversation with my class by focusing on #authres. Storytelling–relating and comparing ideas and events to students own experiences, asking questions, making inferences, expressing opinions–all of these things are rich and lovely and so valuable to the acquisition process. EVEN IF I AM NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER I can provide my students with a rich, deep and authentic language experience.

In terms of reading, many people criticize the use of non-authentic level-appropriate readers. First of all, as a community we have yet to even agree on what the word authentic even means. Second of all, I will put my leveled reader-raised kids up against kids with a pure “#authres” reading experience any day of the week. Those readers are teen-engaging, real language, edited by multiple native speakers, and written by fluent users of the respective target languages. They focus on repeated use of high-frequency language structures in the context of a fun story. Full-disclosure: Yes, I have written a couple of these readers. I wrote them because I needed reading material my students would enjoy. I am not getting rich, so please don’t accuse me of promoting these readers to pad my own pockets! My full-time teaching job is MUCH more lucrative than writing novels for Spanish students, believe me!

Anyway, the bottom line I am try to arrive at is don’t knock it until you try it. Don’t worry about what “looks good” or what others might think (yes, even ACTFL or #langchat). Try new things and when something works well and helps language stick inside your students’ brains, repeat it often! When you find something else that works better, do that.

Unidad: Lo sobrenatural (Spanish 3)

image courtesy of I’m Fantastic

I needed something light, fun, and engaging to take us through the last 8 weeks of school. This is what I came up with! A unit on the supernatural! Kids love it, and I with a little help from my twitter PLN I was able to gather/create a ton of resources! A very special thanks to  Caitlin Hudgins, Carrie Toth, Carol Gaab, Martina Bex, and Cynthia Hitz for all of their help with this, whether they realized it or not!

Essential questions

  • What is “supernatural?”
  • What are some examples of different types of supernatural creatures/events that occur in movies and stories?
  • How do people react when faced with a supernatural occurrence?
  • Why are we fascinated by the supernatural?
  • Do different cultures have different ways of portraying/explaining/relating to supernatural events?
  • Why do some people believe and others don’t believe?
  • Is belief in the supernatural a cultural thing?
  • How do our religious beliefs affect our reaction or ability to process something that appears supernatural?
  • Are there supernatural phenomena that YOU believe in?

Learning targets

  • I can identify vocabulary used to discuss the supernatural.
  • I can compare and contrast various supernatural phenomena from the stories we learned about in class.
  • I can make inferences and predictions about unknown elements of a story.
  • I can recall main events as well as details from and understandably re-tell a story about a supernatural phenomenon.
  • I can describe my own beliefs about the supernatural.
  • I can inquire about the beliefs of others in the supernatural.
  • I can create my own supernatural story using vocabulary and concepts from the various resources we studied.

Please view my entire unit on the supernatural here.

Addition 5/29/13:

To assess this unit my students are doing an interpersonal conversation as well as an in-class essay.

For the interpersonal conversation, I made a set of picture cards (download sobrenatural_pics) of various supernatural creatures/phenomena from the unit, and also a set of question cards (download speaking assessment questions). Students selected their own groups of 3.

Each student will select a picture card randomly, as well as 3 question cards randomly. They will then discuss the cards they chose and ask each other the questions. I will encourage them to make up their own additional questions as well! I will let you know how it goes after they do this next week!

Essay for Lo Sobrenatural “Los Cucos” (gracias to @senoraCMT for this!)

  1. Select 3 of the pieces we looked at – Explain how they have a common thread.
  2. Compare 2 of the “cucos” with your own childhood cuco.
  3. Compare 2 of the “cucos” with a favorite cuco from a movie or book.
  4. Why is it sometimes scarier when you can’t SEE the scary thing? Use the film/videos/novels/stories to explain your point.

Chac Mool Embedded Reading

chac embeddedI am creating a unit on the supernatural for my level 3s, and I decided I really wanted to teach them the short story Chac Mool by Carlos Fuentes, which is one of my favorite short stories and super creepy! The only problem is, it is a bit over their heads!

I decided to try my hand at creating an embedded reading.

Please take a look, use it if you like, and please leave me a comment!

Chac Mool por Carlos Fuentes embedded