Learning about Christmas in Spain and Latin America

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.


Back to School Raffle!


I’m doing a back-to-school giveaway!

1st prize is a $50 gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers!

2nd prize is a $25 Amazon.com gift card!

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Tweet about one of my TPT products that you enjoy using or hope to use in the future. Be sure to include a link to the product and @placido in your tweet so I see it!

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!


My Spanish 3 Curriculum – Semester 2

Quarter 3:

Novel: Noche de oro

I follow the teacher’s guide quite closely for this unit since I wrote it!
I also do some extra study of Costa Rica and the environment.
I use this activity after Chapter 4
"¿Cómo se contamina el agua?" Authentic video activity and
A great video to watch and discuss:
Producir agua del aire: Peru
For the “salsa dancing” chapter in the book I invite some student dancers to give salsa lessons to the class and we do a “dance off.” SUPER FUN!
We discuss food in Costa Rica and we do several of these activities:
Spanish Commercials: Comidas
My all-time favorite part of this unit is this video activity!
Tortugas Marinas/Sea Turtles Authentic Reading + ONLINE IN

Quarter 4:

Novel: La Calaca Alegre

This novel is part of my “Lo Sobrenatural” Unit.

PART 1: When Objects Come to Life!

Chac Mool
 Chac Mool Embedded Reading
I begin with some “20 second responses” in which students just talk freely to their partner for 20 seconds each on the following topics:
  • los miedos
  • un mal compañero de cuarto
  • como cuidar un objeto precioso
Short story – La Casa Tomada – embedded readings adapted by Carrie Toth
Alma - reading based on the short film
More resources for ALMA!

PART 2: Hambre por sangre

Watch THIS VIDEO (Vampires Crown) and ask many, many questions about it.
Read more here: http://palmyraspanish1.blogspot.com/2013/01/short-films-ci-el-vampiro-y-la-dentista.html

Discuss the leyenda of El Chupacabras
El Chupacabras Reading
I’d like to use the short story “El almohadon de plumas” but I cut it out to save time.

PART 3: Los fantasmas y los monstruos

Novel – La Calaca Alegre by Carrie Toth

Film short “Mamá” movie talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRqS6pBC42w

El Monstruo del Armario Reading/Movie Talk

Full film – El orfanato




My Spanish 3 Curriculum – Semester 1

IMG_4855I 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.”

Quarter 1:

Novel: Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos

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!

Quarter 2:

Novel: La Llorona de Mazatlan

I rely quite a bit on the teacher’s guide for this novel.

Spanish Commercials: Deportes

CH 1
CH 2 
Coca-Cola Futbol commercial
CH 3 
CH 4 
CH 5 
CH 6 
La copa mundial
Diego Maradona – quién es? por qué es importante a la gente de Argentina? qué momentos de su carrera eran los más memorables?
Diego Maradona “La mano de Dios” – 2 videos showing his 2 famous goals against England 1986
(Modeling an interview asking questions of a famous athlete)
Reader’s theater
CH 8 
Music video “Te veo” – Laney va a salir con Luis? Habrá consequencias?
Te Veo Song Packet
CH 9 
Cristiano Ronaldo jugará en el Real Madrid (con audio y lectura) http://es.maryglasgowplus.com/students/features/25579
CH 10
CH 11
Reader’s theater activity
CH 12
Ulama: deporte antiguo de los Mayas! http://es.maryglasgowplus.com/students/features/23834
Use with Jesse y Joy song Corazón de Campeón http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_8G_rH2MKI
CH 13
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)]

Embedded Reading “La Llorona” from Brycehedstrom.com

El exvoto – porqué los padres y los abuelos dirían esa leyenda a los jóvenes?
CH 14
Reader’s theater
Compare and contrast the current US obsession with zombies with the legend of La Llorona
Canción – Nino zombi
Dirt Devil vacuum commercial Movie Talk "El exorcismo" + R

Would you rather…?


IMG_3186My Spanish 4 classes have been acquiring Spanish with comprehensible input methods all along, and they are GOOD. They are PROFICIENT. And guess what? We are not done. Just as I myself continue flooding my own free time with target language to increase/maintain my proficiency, they need a constant push to acquire more. However, they can communicate! And they enjoy using their acquired language to communicate. It is fun and satisfying! Output has a role and to me, this is it!

Continuing my quest to promote an environment of fun and productivity in Spanish 4 classes that have dwindled down to only a few juniors, today we played “Would you rather…?” In Spanish I called it “¿Preferirías…?”

I gave each small group a set of cards that I created with “Would you rather…?” questions. Students placed the cards faced down and took turns drawing a card. After they read the question, they gave their answer, then as a group they discussed their opinions and decided if certain conditions would determine their answer. This is a GREAT way to practice speaking in the conditional, and it is also just plain fun.

My 6th hour class is sometimes a little tiny bit more in need of “management,” so I gave them a carrot to keep them in Spanish. I set a 20 minute timer. I told them that if I heard ANY English, I would reset the timer. I needed to hear 20 minutes of “Would you rather…?” in Spanish and then we would watch El Internado for the remainder of class.

Not only did they completely hold it together and speak all in Spanish, but they were good at it, and we all had a lot of fun. We only had 3 small groups and I was able to circulate around to each group and participate with them (HEY–INPUT!). At the end one group said they wished we could just keep playing. One student said “You should make more cards and let us play this all hour some day!” So, this activity is a keeper, and yes Rachel, I will work on making more cards for you for Spanish 5 next year!

You can make your own questions, or get mine here!

We can still use Spanish to communicate even though half the class has graduated!


Reading non-fiction text in Spanish 4

IMG_3170_censored (1)
A group of 3 using the Fan-N-Pick Kagan structure to discuss an article

I have been really looking for ways to increase my Spanish 4 students’ ability to comprehend more types of text and gradually up their “authenticity levels” in their reading. They are awesome kids to work with, and I am looking at most likely having a Spanish 5 class next year for the first time! I have a blend of extremely proficient kids (advanced in both listening and reading on the AAPPL exam) all the way down to those who are still scoring in the novice high range on the AAPPL. Some kids just LIKE learning Spanish and stick with it even though their proficiency isn’t increasing as rapidly as some of their peers. And I am totally ok with that! I’d rather have them stay with me and make slow gains than quit and gain nothing. (On a related note, check out #nationofadvocates on Twitter!)

One of the things I have been working with in Spanish 4 is reading news articles. I often will take an article, simplify it, and make an activity with it. (By the way…if you teach Spanish 1 or 2 and want an AMAZING wealth of non-fiction CI amazingness, I highly recommend you check out Martina Bex’ El mundo en tus manos Spanish news stories for novice learners!) I really wanted to come up with an activity that students could use to process ANY non-fiction text. Plus, since I am left with only half my students in my Spanish 4 classes (our seniors finish 2 weeks early) I wanted to come up with some activities that felt like valuable work yet not a punishment. In many of their other junior/senior combined classes they are simply “done” for the year. They admitted to me that they are bored with so much free time and are tired of watching movies all day.

I’ve really been liking the content at NewsELA.com, and they have a ton of Spanish articles. Students can select the lexile level they’d like to read, and I encourage them to select what feels comfortable to them. I told the students to get into groups of 3-4 with their chromebooks and choose an article that they ALL wanted to read. I allowed them to read silently or aloud, together or individually, and they could have WordReference.com open if they wanted. Their task was to make sure everyone in the group was able to understand the article.

I had made up a set of generic task cards with questions that could potentially apply to ANY non-fiction news story (I sell my printable task cards in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.). Each group was given the instructions AFTER they finished reading.

Task Cards for discussing non-fiction
Task Cards for discussing non-fiction

They were to use the Kagan structure “Fan-N-Pick.” Our school is a Reading Apprenticeship school and we have been using Kagan structures for many years. I highly recommend them!

The basic gist is this:

  • Students sit in a circle.
  • One student fans the cards out (like they are going to do a card trick “pick a card, any card!”)
  •  The student to the left of the fan selects a card and reads the question to the student on THEIR left.
  • That student answers the question.
  • If there is a 4th student in the circle, that student either adds to the answer or restates the answer.
  • Pass the fan of cards to the left and repeat.
  • I allowed my students to reference their article DURING the Fan-N-Pick activity if they needed to.
My Spanish 4 classes are tiny now that my seniors are done for the year!


I had my students put away their articles and task cards. Their task was to video record themselves having an informal “book club style” discussion about their article. They were well-prepared, knowledgeable, and I daresay they even had fun doing this!


Differentiation and choice in my language classroom

Today on #langchat, I mentioned that I like to offer options to students as a way of differentiating. I needed a little more space than twitter affords to explain!

1.Options, options, and options within the options. Teenagers LOVE to feel in control and have choices. We do a LOT of reading of novels in class. I like to offer students options. I allow them to choose between:

  • independent reading
  • pair reading (they can choose to just read quietly next to each other, they can read aloud in Spanish together, or they can decode to English [loose translation] together)
  • small group reading (same options as pair reading)
  • read with me (I decode to English, pausing frequently for students to chorally fill in the next word they see. For unmotivated groups I have been known to fling candy at participators as though they were seals at a zoo getting fish!)choice

2. #AUTHRES As much as I go on about comprehensible input, I do really love using authentic resources in class, especially in level 2 and up. The trick for me is to keep it quick, keep it fun, allow the task to be simple enough as to not frustrate, and then EXPLOIT the authentic resource as a vehicle for providing MORE comprehensible input, either verbally or with a modified reading.

Here is an example of an activity I made with a Coca-Cola commercial. Students get the entire sheet, and THEY select whether they want to do the advanced or beginner segment. Following the activity, we can then do a comprehensible discussion about what kinds of gifts an elf could make, what they wish for for a gift, or what are some examples of non-material gifts they would like to give or receive.

coca cola comm differentiated 3. Embedded readings. I often will offer students an embedded reading with 2-5 different levels included. I allow students a choice about which level they start on (I intervene gently if they are choosing poorly…sometimes a student will try to start out on the highest level just to speed through!).

Here is an example of an embedded reading I made for the story Chac Mool for Spanish 3 that is free to download.

You will notice that in the lower levels of the reading I use clip art or gloss some of the vocabulary. Using visuals is a great way to lend support to students whether you are speaking to them or reading.

4. Layer upon layer and lots of connections. It is important to spiral and recycle and always be focusing most heavily on high-frequency vocabulary. Keeping the topics relevant and high-interest is also key. I am always looking for things in the world that might spark some excitement with my students. This is how I came across the story of the organization Amigos de las Aves and the Flor de Mayo bird refuge in Costa Rica that inspired me to write Robo en la Noche. 3 years later the movie Río came out and it was a perfect fit to blend together a unit! That led me to want to know more about the inspiration for the movie and I discovered the story of Presley! These are all unique and interesting stories yet they connect to the theme of wildlife poaching. By bringing them all into my classroom we are then able to make comparisons and re-use that same set of vocabulary and same language structures to discuss new scenarios. We can then personalize by talking about our own pets. Did you know “felangérido de azúcar”? Well, I do now!

Felángerido de azúcar Photo by OberonNightSeer CC BY-SA 3.0

5. Adapt expectations. I have one Spanish 2 class that just plain struggles. Many of them have failed at least one semester of Spanish previously, most of them don’t really consider being bilingual a priority, and many of them just hate school plain-and-simple. I invest LOTS of time getting to know them and just trying to relate to them as people. The sugar-glider girl is in this class. She loves to listen and understands IF I CAN ENGAGE HER. If it feels too “schooly” she and many of her peers tune right out. For this class, I often try to make them feel like they are “getting a deal.” I will say things like “How about if you guys give me the next 10 minutes of good eye contact and respond to all my questions we can listen to your favorite Spanish songs for the last 10 minutes of class?” They will go for it AND they will sing along with the songs to boot. Win-win. Or “How about instead of taking this quiz we do a Kahoot instead?” Same questions, but they buy in. “On this 10 question quiz, you only have to answer 8 correctly to get an A.” Make them feel like they just got a great deal.

How do YOU differentiate and provide choices to your students? Let me know in the comments!

Hidden Secrets of TPT!

You don’t even have to spend money to get awesome stuff from Teachers Pay Teachers! I am loving this site so much, and I am trying not to be too crazy about it, but honestly it is, as Oprah would say “One of my favorite things!”


Here is an example of items on TPT that are free for Spanish teachers. 4,500 results!!!!

I’ve been actively selling my teaching materials for a few months now, and I decided my store needed a name. I asked my good buddy Carrie Toth (@senoraCMT) what she thought, and she IMMEDIATELY said “Teaching in Target.” I laughed and jokingly said “Yes, and I can have a little picture of myself in a red shirt and khakis!” But she said, “It is like one-stop shopping to help teachers meet the ACTFL goal of 90%+ target language!” Do you see why I love this woman so much?

big logo

Everything I sell is something I use in my own classroom, so it is tested by real high-schoolers! I also have several items for free!

free items

Also, do you know that when you rate and provide a comment on an item you purchase from Teachers Pay Teachers you get credits toward future purchases? So, please go rate those items now! You just log in, go to “My TPT” in the upper right hand corner, click “My Purchases” and you will see all of the items that need a rating.

So, check out TPT, and if you have great stuff to share, consider making your own store.


Círculos de la literatura

lit circLiterature circles have been a staple in elementary classrooms forever, and they are a great way to introduce your world language students to a more independent way of reading novels in class. You can do literature circles at any level, but personally I find they work best in level 3 or 4, or in level 2 if you have students that are able to work well and read independently.

Materials needed:

Several sets of 4-6 novels each, at a variety of levels but not too far out of the reach of any student in the class. It is totally ok to have some “easy” reads in the mix.

I have made up a packet for my Spanish classes with descriptions of each job, a project checklist, rubric, cover sheet for each group, and job sheet for each individual job. If you want to make your own, there are lots of other examples online!


I like to start by giving a little “book talk” about each title (I am also a certified school media specialist, so I love incorporating tons of books and reading into my Spanish classes!). You can talk in English or in your target language, as long as it is comprehensible to students! Spend just 30 seconds or a minute on each title! This is just a quick little commercial!

Next, I invite every student to look through the titles and select the title they would like to read.

After all students have chosen a title, the kids with the same books become a group.

For each chapter, students must select a job, and they must equally share all of the jobs throughout the book. (There MUST be a discussion director for each chapter!) Allow the students themselves to manage the process of delegating jobs. I allow groups to decide if they like working together to read or if they prefer to read independently. I give time throughout the week for reading, and there are deadlines weekly for completing chapters and for having literature circle work completed. For each chapter, they must complete their job, participate in a group discussion which the group videotapes (Each teacher will have different ways of managing this process. Audio taping in another option, but I prefer video!), and then put all of their work together into a packet with a cover sheet.

Let the students know that you reserve the right to grade any or all of their work! But the trick is, you are not going to grade ALL of it. You can either tell the groups that you want “chapter 8” from every group, or you might tell each group to select what they think was their group’s BEST work and submit that.


I have several jobs that students must take turns with throughout the project.

  • El dueño del resumen
  • El viajero
  • Enriquecedor del vocabulario
  • Director de la discusión
  • Artista
  • Conector al mundo

For more ideas, just search online for “Literature circles.” Elementary teachers have tons of ideas that we can also use in secondary world language classes!