November 2014 - Mis Clases Locas

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Teaching with Novels

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Meet Sra. Wienhold

I am thankful for: IWLA Grant

This year I was honored with one of the amazing IWLA Grants. After finding out I was awarded the grant I wrote this post about how to get money for your classroom, basically you need to apply! I have always known I wanted a Spanish classroom library and this grant has helped me immensely with that goal. Books are expensive new and quickly fill up your shopping cart total. With this grant I wanted to see how far I could stretch my $500. IWLA allowed me to purchase the books myself and then submit my receipts (in my case electronic receipts). This allowed me so much more freedom to shop around for deals and to get the most bang for my buck. When I have had to order through my school I felt bad having the secretaries order through multiple sites, so I made most purchases through a single website. While convenient, this eats through your grant pretty fast. 

Here is how I got 240 books in Spanish online for $500
**If you are interested in particular titles, this method will not work. If you want a bulk amount of variety and have a little time to spend, then this is for you.
  • Go to Ebay and search "Spanish book lot" "bilingual book lot" or other combination of changing the search preferences for language of book etc. 
    • Bid on the large lots of books, as they are generally the best deal. For example right now there is a lot of 33 books with the highest bid of $16 (+$11 shipping). I usually tried to get lots with the overall price per book of less than $1. 
    • Yes, you may get a strange assortment of books maybe from a classroom or public library, even with a random Portugese, French, or German title thrown in (If you teach those languages message me & I will send you them for the cost of shipping:) But, overall there was a great variety of books and for the price per lot you can not complain. 
    • This was my first time with bidding on Ebay and my husband can tell you I became a little obsessed. I would recommend getting the app. 
  • To keep track of all of your purchases, create a spreadsheet with item name, number of books, date purchased, price, location and when received. Also, keep track of your outstanding bids as well because I got a little crazy at the end with too many bids in and ended up spending over my budget and into my own money. 
  • Create a label in your email to archive all of your online receipts. This way I just went in screenshotted the receipts and inserted them in a document with proof of all purchases, if you need this. 
  • If you are looking for specific titles try these sites for cheap books.
  • Purchase the awesome educator sample packs at These readers a great deal and the students love reading them.
I plan on blogging soon more soon about how we have been using the books in class, but for now enjoy my students' "Shelfies" with their favorite books.



I am thankful for: El Internado

This week I would like to reflect on what I am grateful for. First, I am so thankful for the Spanish television series El Internado: Laguna Negra. It has absolutely changed my Spanish III & IV classes for the better this year, even through we only watch it on Fridays. You can read about how I am implementing it in this postOver the summer I watched the show myself and put together resources including the 7 best resources for El Internado. The page I am most thankful for is the holy grail of awesome Internado resources by Mike PetoI visit this page on a weekly basis for ready made, wonderful, supplementary materials to go with the show. 
Marcos - Why the girls love El Internado source
Here are a few reasons why your Spanish class should watch El Internado: Laguna Negra:
  • It is highly engaging. 
    • It is an actual TV show (not a made for Spanish students crappy textbook series) with a complex plot, real characters, and suspenseful drama. On multiple occasions the bell has rung for lunch and students have stayed frozen in my room finishing an episode. (This is at a school where students literally sprint across the street to the cafeteria).
  • The cultural extension possibilities are endless. 
    • My Spanish III just finished a week long mini unit on Ratoncito Pérez based on the wonderful resources shared by Bethanie Drew. This Spanish equivalent to the tooth fairy plays a big part in episode 5 of season 1, and by studying him before the episode, they got a lot more out of the plot. (One student who had watched ahead said the episode made so much more sense after studying Ratoncito). 
  • Students are excited to come to Spanish class. 
    • Between El Internado & baile viernes, students literally run to class on Fridays. They have tried to convince me that all we should do is watch El Internado, and have used watching an extra day as a reward for meeting a class goal or for good behavior. 
  • It pushes my language skills as a teacher.
    • For the first time this school year I returned to school without the summer language slump. The input I received all summer watching the show helped my language skills as well. The show has allowed me to introduce advanced structures without sheltering grammar tenses that students are understanding. Yet, to do so you must pre-teach and PAUSE the show for explanation, rephrasing, and comprehension checks. It took us five classes to get through episode 1, but only two classes for episode 2. 
  • They watch it on their own.
    • I now have many students who are binge watching the show at home on their own time either using this site or Youtube. No, these are not just the creme of the crop high achievers. I have multiple students who have struggled to get to Spanish III, on season 4 of the show, spending entire Sundays of their free time watching episode of a TV show in SPANISH. Their Spanish is improving dramatically, they are addicted, and I could not be prouder. 
What are you thankful for this year?

When you lose your cool

We have That Class that likes to push our buttons. My first year it was every class. As the 3rd Spanish teacher in 3 years everyone was trying to get me to fail. The students constantly talked about all of the horrible things they had done to the previous teachers. But there was ONE CLASS in particular. ONE CLASS brought me to the brink of tears more times than I care to mention. This summer I wrote the post 10 things I learned my first 2 years teaching and you would think that I would not repeat these mistakes. But, I am human, and some days we all know there is a very fine line between having it together and loosing our cool. 

Today I lost my cool. 
I completely stopped what we were doing to have one of those sternly talk in a loud voice in English and really get there attention moments. 
I was sick of trying to talk over them. 
I was sick of their disrespect.
I was actually sick yesterday and had very little patience for their shenanigans.
I had weak lesson plan and this is a class that needs every millisecond structured or it becomes pure chaos.
I lost control and instead of using good behavior managements techniques, I scolded them in English. 
Instead of continuing with the lesson I used writing as a punishment. 
I told them they needed to silently write in Spanish about what we have been talking about this week and it was due by the end of class. 

And you know what. They wrote silently for 10 whole minutes. 
I took this time to cool off. 
I took deep breaths. 
I sat down and drank my water. 
A poster in our library
I walked around and regained my composure. 

I am by no means perfect. I know sometimes while reading the shiny, wonderful lesson plans and resources posted by other bloggers, I feel inadequate. Because I make mistakes. I stop mid lesson and I loose my cool. So today, there will be no shared resource, no great idea to implement tomorrow. Instead your nugget of wisdom from a tired, stick fighting sickness, mom of an infant, teacher is WE ARE ALL LEARNING AND GROWING. 

While writing this after school. A student from That Class came in to apologize for their behavior. It was exactly what I needed. 

So tomorrow I need to:
Admit I lost my cool & apologize
Make sure I have a solid plan for class so it does not happen again. 

Introducing La Calaca Alegre - Mi Identidad

My Spanish IV class is just starting the great novel La Calaca Alegre by Carrie Toth. To begin we had a wonderful guest speaker from Mexico. We also completed a fun little activity about identity, a main theme of the novel. I got the idea from the awesome TPRS Teachers Guide to accompany the novel. These guides are worth their weight in gold and make teaching a novel for newbies like me so much easier. 

Last week we had state testing, so while proctoring I had some extra time to prepare for my Spanish IV. Normally they are my fifth straight class in the morning with no break (after 2 Spanish II & 2 Spanish I) so some activities have a tendency to be thrown together for this class. It was nice for a chance to start fresh with this as my first class that day. I knew I wanted to start with a picture of myself to talk about my identity, but then found some old embarrassing high school pictures of myself I had taken pictures of and decided to use them as well. I did not do anything fancy, but just put them together in a Keynote with a few key words that I would have used to describe myself while in high school. 

As the students came into class I had the slide above posted and you should have seen them crowded around my board trying to find me in the group pictures and laughing at my hair and fashion choice for my Freshman Homecoming. I spent some time in the target language describing my identity as a high school student. I then switched to the slide below and talked about my identity now. It was great to be able to compare and contrast how I saw myself then, and how I see myself now. 

It was then time to move on to talking about their identity. In the slide below I asked them to put together some pictures and words on a document or slide, that they think describe their identity now, as a high school senior. I know there are many fancy tech tools we could have used to do this, but the focus on the lesson was not about them creating, but rather communicating about themselves. The students had fun finding their favorite pictures of them and their friends to put together. 

After about 10 minutes I had the student share with their tables about how they see themselves and their identity, and the others were supposed to ask questions as well. 
I then asked for volunteers who airplayed (we have Apple TV) their slide up and described it to the class. 

It was a great segue into introducing the novel, as well then discussed the main character and completed the pre reading discussion questions. How do you introduce a novel?

Native Guest Speakers

In my post about my goals for the school year, one of my goals was to have Spanish speaking guests.  
I also went to a session at IWLA this fall about how to incorporate more native speakers in language classes with Mark Bates and Sharon Wilkinson from Simpson College. 

Having native speakers visit language classes should be a given, but in my first two years I had an embarrassing total of ONE guest speaker. Why so few?I would say the overarching reason was fear. As a non-native speaker I was afraid of looking dumb in front of my students. I was scared to reach out to the heritage speakers in the community. Most of all, I was worried my students could not handle speaking with someone who really knew the language. How terrible it that!?! The whole point of learning a language is to be able to COMMUNICATE and USE the language in the real world. I needed to be pushing students out of tehir comfort zones and allowing them the opportunity to practice it with people who grew up speaking the language. 

So this year in my quarter 1 newsletter, I asked parents to put me in contact with any Spanish speakers they know. One amazing parent contacted her Spanish speaking co-worker.He offered up his stay at home wife, who is an imigrant from Mexico, to come in and talk with my class, just as long as she could bring along her 4 and 2 year old children. So, I had someone who was willing to come in, now what? 

Since Rocio was bringing her children, I wanted to keep her visit short and make sure that she did not need to prepare anything and was able to just show up. My Spanish IV class was preparing to study the novel La Calaca Alegre by Carrie Toth, which focuses around the theme of Chicano identity. Also, this bright and well behaved group would be a warm and welcoming class for a mother and her children. 

Before Our Guests
  • All students prepared and posted 3-5 interview questions on Google Classroom for our guest, incorporating the ideas of identity, immigrantion, her former life in Mexico and her current life in Iowa. They were all asked to just make sure they participated. 
  • I had cookies, children's books and coloring materials ready to hopefully occupy the children, so we would have a chance to chat. 
  • Students met our guests in the parking lot and brought them to class. 
During Class
  • We let our guests pick where they would like to sit, and we all then formed a semi-circle around them. We all sat to keep the conversation natural and more informal. 
  • Students started the discussion, and asked her questions. There were a few awkward,giggly pauses where the students stopped and nervously waited for someone else to ask a question. 
  • I sat in the discussion and helped to rephrase the student's questions when she did not understand them, and repeat her answers to make sure the students caught everything she said. 
  • At first her children were incredibly shy and wanted to cling to mom, but once they warmed up we were able to talk to them as well. 
  • We were very lucky that without meeting the guest first, she was very open to questions, school appropriate, and overall was pretty easy to understand.                                        

After Class
  • We thanked our guests profusely as they were leaving, as well as through a thank you note from the class. 
  • We debriefed as a class and discussed what they learned, what surprised them, and how the overall discussion went. 
Notes for next time
  • I wish I would have had everyone go around and introduce themselves at the beginning. The students were so excited to see the adorable kids, that they just kind of started. 
  • I am glad the students prepared questions, but it would be nice to discuss them, and decide who would ask what in what kind of order. 
  • Also, their questions were on their computer, and next time I would have them print them off so their computers would not have to be open. 
Now that we had such a great experience, we need to bring more speakers in!

Quick Tip: The Book of Life Movie

picture source
If you are a Spanish teacher and have not yet see The Book of Life, you should make the time to check it out. I have been pumped to see it ever since Sra. Dentlinger wrote this post about the movie this summer. As she mentions there are endless ways to expand on the culture portrayed in the movie, from bullfighting, to Mexico, to perceptions of death. This time next year every Spanish class in the country will be watching the colorful and fun movie in Spanish class as a part of their Day of the Dead lessons. 

I was fortunate enough to be able to take my Spanish club on an afternoon field trip where we both saw the movie, as well as ate at an authentic Mexican restaurant. All four levels of Spanish spent last week on a mini Day of the Dead unit, mostly based around these awesome plans by Martina Bex. In the middle of the unit, the Spanish club was able to see the movie. I would have loved for all my classes to have the chance to see it, but at my tiny school I literally have 2/3rds of the student population in Spanish. This was a way to reward those going above and beyond who participate in Spanish club. 

The students LOVED it. I was worried with it being PG that it would be too "kiddy" for the upperclassmen, but like most animated movies now, there was plenty of hidden adult humor to keep them entertained. We happened to see the 3D version, since it was the only matinee that particular day, but we agreed that you did not necessarily need to see it 3D. The music was great, and included a huge variety or genres, since the main character is an aspiring singer. Our group had the theater to ourselves, which was fun since students would add in commentary in Spanish, as well as laugh and gasp as loud as they pleased. 

Overall, I plan on buying the movie, both to watch with my little one, as well as use in class next year. 
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