¡La música!

I LOVE using music in my classroom every day! It is motivating, cultural, popular, fun, and if you ask my students years later what they loved most about my class they will most likely tell you it was dressing up and acting things out and MUSIC! I’d love to share with you some of the ways I use music and hopefully you will leave a comment and let me know your favorite ways of incorporating music in your classes too!

My students receive a large music packet each semester. We spend about 1 1/2 weeks on each song. We begin class every day by listening to the song, and students are expected to have the lyrics out and follow along, cancionesand singing is ENCOURAGED but never forced. I have several words/phrases underlined that students are expected to know for the quiz we have at the end of the 1 1/2 weeks. After we listen for several days we do a practice cloze quiz (included in the packet).

Additional activities that I may or may not do for each song:

Extra cloze activity with a secret message.

Lyric line-up (put lyrics strips in order while listening – best in a small group)

Musical slap and grab with vocab picture cards

Storytelling with the song or with a music video

Connect a song to something else we are studying

Use a song to highlight a grammatical pattern

Use a song to compare cultures

Read about the artist performing the song

A reading which turns the song into a story

Use lyrics to create a “found poem”

Use blubbr.com to make a trivia activity based on a youtube music video

Lyricstraining.com example with Yerbatero by Juanes

Dance contests or flash mobs (Waka Waka is a fun song to try!)

Use a song as transition or “worktime” music or during passing time between classes.

How do YOU use music to spark learning in your classes?

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!

Textivate.com – 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!

Lingro.com – 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!














La ropa y la música: botas picudas

Una bota picuda foto: fotoexpert

I’ve been wanting to teach this botas picudas lesson for a while since I first read Crystal Barragán’s blog post about it! I figured time was of the essence–you know how fashion goes!

To start out, we are listening this week to the song “La camisa negra” by Juanes, so we listened to that. I then talked a bit about what different kids were wearing today (they know colors and a handful of clothing words already).

Then, in their groups, I had each kid look at a magazine or book that I had pre-selected and try to find some new clothing/accessory words and they made a quick (5 min) poster showing a pic of the item sketched out and the word in Spanish. We displayed them in front of the room…these can be used to support conversation as visuals.

Then what I did was ask the following questions (level 1B classes):

I am writing exactly as I would ask the class so you can see the level.

La música influye (qué significa ‘influye en inglés’?-sí influence!) la moda (ropa)?

Sí tú ves (pointing at my eyes and then pointing forward for comprehension support) la ropa una persona, sabes (pointing at my brain for comprehension support) la música que la persona escucha (point at my ear)?

Then, I told them we were going to view some photos of different people while listening to a song (Inténtalo by 3Ball MTY – Tribal Monterrey). I asked them to guess which photo most closely matched the way the people look who typically enjoy this music.

Here is my powerpoint: music and fashion

After viewing all of the photos while listening, I had the class vote as one student tallied. (Do all of this in Spanish!)

Then, I showed the video (which I edited for some visual content) about Tribal Guarachero music and the tribaleros with their botas picudas.

The kids were extremely engaged and interested! It was a hit!

Here is another really good video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSY6SLI0fPA

In the “The Spanish Teacher” episode of Glee Season 3 (available on amazon streaming) the “crew” dances in botas picudas to Bamboleo and Hero 21 minutes into the episode!

And now a parody of the trend (some content may need editing, please preview!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6skHudz0gu0

Here is a reading ($) I made up to go with this lesson.

A big GRACIAS to @srtabarragan for the great ideas!

Level 4 Spanish Civil War / Art / Film unit

Recently my level 4 Spanish class finished up a study of the Spanish Civil War and Franco. It was a lengthy unit, which encompassed a novel study last semester, and then continued into the current semester with a film and art study. I was really pleased with the learning that took place, the increased ability of my students to discuss more advanced topics (these are 4th year students, but not pre-AP. Most of them are just interested in Spanish and not all are even college bound kids.), and what seems to be a genuine appreciation for the struggles of the Spanish people, the understanding of the concept of fascism, the understanding of left-wing versus right-wing, and the concept of film and art as a powerful political statement rather than simply entertainment or beauty.

I’d like to share an overview of what we did, much of which unfolded as a result of some really powerful collaboration with my colleague Carrie Toth (@senoraCMT). I am so grateful to know her and call her my friend!


La hija del sastre
García Lorca Biography Packet


Article on Spain’s Falsified Adoptions under Franco


La lengua de las mariposas

El espinazo del diablo

El laberinto del fauno


Guernica by Pablo Picasso in 3D

El Ambidiestro

Students kept journals, we did lots of discussion, and they also were told to look for imagery and especially what they believed might be symbolism. We kept track of the powerful images that were common across more than one of the items we viewed or read. Students practiced speaking about the imagery with an inside-outside circle activity.

Finally, after studying the painting Guernica by Picasso, students were given time to create their own art representative of what they knew about the events and consequences of the civil war for the people of Spain. Once their art was finished, we displayed it in a “gallery” (a large open unused choir room in our school!), complete with tapas (ok, popcorn, chips and oreos, but it was a nice thought!). Students were divided, each group had 10 min to circulate and talk with others, 10 minutes to stand near own art. All talking in Spanish. I circulated asking questions to help them refine their own thoughts and statements. At the end, they had to describe their art to me in Spanish (via cell phone using Google voice), and then were randomly assigned to the art of another student to describe or discuss in Spanish.

Here is a video of two of my students describing art created by their classmates.

What I do in each of my classes

I received this in an e-mail recently and thought it might be useful for others so I decided to blog about it:

I have been reading the more TPRS site regularly now for about a year and I see you posting often and I can usually relate to your comments.

Therefore, I was wondering if you could share for each level you teach, the major units you do to help the kids achieve fluency.  For example, you mentioned that in level 2 your focus is on novels, culture, etc.

Can you list the novels you have been using most recently in the order you do them?  Also for the other levels, which movies are standard and about how long do you study them?  I am fine with knowing which grammar pop ups to highlight and can figure out the most important vocab, but I struggle with knowing the most interesting and effective units to teach and would love to know what has worked for you.

So, here is what I do in a nutshell which I do change from year-to-year as well as adjust according to who else is teaching the same course at my school and what we decide together:

Level 1:

I begin the year by spending a couple of weeks teaching basic sports and activities and build fun, personal, totally TL class discussions about the students in the class and what they do.  I integrate tons of adjectives, adverbs, some family vocab, girl/boy, friend/gf/bf, etc.  Maybe some animals.  It is not structured and totally student-driven.  Even the assessments are based on their knowledge of each other.  I make up little readings early on based on what they tell me about themselves.  My favorite and most magical time of my teaching process.

I use anywhere from 2-4 chapters of Cuéntame Más (spread out over the course of the whole year).  After all that personalized comprehensible input they are ready for the stories from this book.  I continue to HIGHLY personalize and have lots of fun!

By about October, they are ready for some heavier reading than just a little paragraph a day that I type up (we also read from the Mini-lecturas that go with Cuéntame Más.).  We read 3-4 novels throughout the year.  Last year, we read:

El nuevo Houdini

Noches misteriosas en Granada

Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto

Robo en la noche 

For each of the novels I use the Teacher Resource guides available at www.tprstorytelling.com.  The resource guides essentially turn the novel into a complete cultural unit.  I also have my students listen to the audio books and they actually really enjoy this!

I also teach a new song about every 1-2 weeks.  The students get the lyrics, the English translation, some assigned vocab to learn, we do cloze listening, and finally a cloze quiz with some vocabulary matching.  They love learning the songs, the quizzes are easy for them, and many download the music on their ipods!  Check out my youtube channel for a sample of the songs we learn.  We also learn a lot of Justo Lamas songs and have fun with the karaoke on his website.

Another fun resource to use is the BBC’s Mi Vida Loca.  There are 22 episodes of an adventure/mystery filmed in Spain and it is wonderful!  The kids really like it!

Level 2:


Esperanza (I show the film La misma luna with this)

Los Baker van a Perú

La maldición de la cabeza reducida

Problemas en paraíso

For each of the novels I use the Teacher Resource guides available at www.tprstorytelling.com.  The resource guides essentially turn the novel into a complete cultural unit.

Video series:

Extr@! Available through Discovery Education streaming or on DVD from Discovery Education.  We watch episodes 1-4.  I have made packets up of the transcripts and some little readings/questions for each episode.

Aventuras Vascas Available through Discovery Education streaming or on DVD through Amazon.com (currently unavailable).

I teach a couple of mini-units also.  In 1st semester, we do myths and legends, and in 2nd semester we learn about Frida Kahlo and Mexican exvotos as artwork.  I sometimes do a larger art unit as well if I have time.  (See my handout from ACTFL 2011 for some info about these.)

Check out my youtube channel for a sample of the songs we learn in level 2.

Levels 3-4:

I have not taught these classes enough to say I have a “set curriculum.” However, I have tended to focus heavily on “social justice” issues and global awareness.

We still do tons of songs (Check out my youtube channel for a sample of the songs we learn in level 3-4.) and lots of class discussions.  They do more independent reading at these levels and we incorporate more non-fiction at this point too.


Esperanza, Cajas de cartón

Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha

La Guerra Sucia

I am going to pilot a new unpublished novel this year which is set during the Spanish Civil War.


Al otro lado; El norte (with Esperanza)

Viva la causa (from Teaching Tolerance)

Voces inocentes; Sin nombre (with Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha)

La historia oficial, Cautiva (with La Guerra Sucia)

La lengua de las mariposas, El laberinto del fauno (during study of Spanish Civil War)


In addition to popular music, we often study songs that are related to a unit we study.  For example, when we watch Voces Inocentes we also learn the song “Casas de cartón.”  When we study the Spanish Civil War, we learn some period songs and discuss which point of view is represented.


We study some Pablo Neruda, his work is pretty accessible for intermediate learners.

We also look at some Machado and García Lorca when we talk about the Spanish Civil War.

Video Series:

We watch episodes 5-13 during Spanish 3-4 of Extr@!  In level 3 the kids make a parody video of the series as well which is really fun.

It is important to note that the main thread that runs through all of my teaching is Comprehensible Input.  The work of Stephen Krashen is the most important work ever done to advance the acquisition of languages and the eradication of monolingualism.  If you are a language teacher you need to become more familiar with his work and rely less on the ineffective ways in which you were “taught.”  Languages are not learned; they are acquired.

The missing link for me in Krashen’s work was TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling.).  Even though I don’t teach a lot of “silly stories,” I use TPRS methodology to promote language acquisition in my classes.  Pre-teaching key structures and vocabulary, personalization, repetition in novel and fun ways,  and asking circling questions are key elements in all of what I do.

I hope you found this post useful!  Please leave me your comments!

Some great resources for Spanish comprehensible input!

MiWLA Handouts and Links

Rejoinder List  we dicussed in Carol Gaab’s workshop on Friday

Transforming the World Language Classroom With Formative Assessment 1:00-4:30 pm University 1

Formative Assessment MiWLA 2011

Angry Birds Article

Robo en la noche Choice Board Projects

Formative Assessment Teacher Tools

Reading Comprehension Assessment

Writing Rubric

Cute “Secret Message” Activity

Formative Assessment Card Sorting Activity (if you are a coach feel free to borrow and use!)

Online Resources for Maximum Learning Impact  2:30-3:20 pm Ballroom F


Leave your impressions of these resources here! http://willyou.typewith.me/p/miwla

Webinar on Using Technology in the FL Classroom

I will be presenting a webinar for TPRS Publishing on August 24.   4-5pm Mountain time/7pm Eastern.

Technology Tips for the FL Classroom

Are you tired of new technologies that leave you scratching your head and thinking “this is very cool but I don’t have the time to learn it”?  Believe it or not, there are some things you may not have heard of that could actually SAVE you time and make everyone envious of your techie skills! Discover easy tech tools to create lessons that are embedded in comprehensible, compelling input in both written and verbal forms.
PRESENTER: Kristy Placido60 minutes – $25

* Please check your time zone for your local time. Note that Arizona does not participate in daylight savings time.

**Registration should be a made a minimum of one hour prior to start of webinar to insure connectivity.