March 2015 - Mis Clases Locas

Box 1

Box 1
Teaching with Novels

Box 2

Box 2

Box 3

Box 3
Meet Sra. Wienhold

Tumba Chapter 2

Spanish I is continuing to read Tumba by Mira Canion. The teachers guide and audio book can be purchased herePrevious posts include introducing the novel & Chapter 1 - schools around the world.

Kindergarten Style Reading

The day we read chapter 2, I asked the class if they would like to read it "Kindergarten style" sitting on the floor by by comfy chair. Their answer was a resounding sí!! I am not sure why I have not had Spanish I sit around Kindergarten style before. I think it may have to do with the fact that this class needs a lot of structure to stay focused and on task, so I usually read to them while they are in their seats. We have been missing out! For 8th hour Friday, they were Awesome while following along with their books sprawled out around the room, laying on a blanket on the floor, and using comfy chairs. 

I often forget about making sure to add novelty, and this is a prime example of letting go of that controlling nature and allowing them to relax. Having the students on the floor close to me meant high participation during questioning, and fewer distractions than sitting facing each other at the groups in tables. I do not want to do this every time, as it too would get stale, but it was a great reminder to mix it up!

Reader's Theater

"Sergio" bullying "Alex" while "David" watches
Chapter 2's dialogue and introduction of the bully, leads itself perfectly to acting out the scene through reader's theater. There are many very willing actors in this Spanish I class who love being in front of their peers. After reading, I asked for three volunteers to be our actors for this scene. There are many ways that you could do a reader's theater, including making scripts and having students practice and perform, narrating and having students just use motions, or a mix of both. 

Since we did not have a ton of time left in class, I read as the narrator and our three actors used their books to say their dialogue lines. Our actors even volunteered to play the parts that fit the descriptions in the book (an athletic boy for David and a self proclaimed bad boy/bully for Sergio). Our actors did a great job portraying the parts in the book, even though the bully took some creative liberties (fake punching his face instead of arm). This gave their classmates a visual representation of the book, as well as got in another repetition of the chapter in a new way. 

Monday we reviewed chapter 2 by working in partners to put printed and cut up events in order. They compared answered with other groups, and then came together to discuss our answers as a class. Now on to chapter 3!

Tumba Chapter 1 - schools around the world

Spanish I is spending this quarter reading the novel Tumba by Mira Canion and as promised I will be sharing some ideas to go along with it. The teachers guide and audio book can be purchased here, as well as my first post about introducing the novel

On the first day I read Chapter 1 to the class, with all students following along in their copy. We stopped often to ask personalized questions, especially comparing their school schedule, uniforms, and set up to our own school. Once finished we compared the two main characters' personality, as well as what they link and dislike. 

Chapter 1 of the novel is centered around talking about where the main characters go to school in Mexico. Recently I stumbled upon an Awesome resource for teaching about schools around the world in Spanish by Neil Jones. These resources would be great for any "school unit" or as a supplement to taking about schools in a novel such as chapter 2 of Felipe Alou or chapter 1 of Tumba
This may be old news to many of you since the post Las aulas del mundo is a couple years old, but I was very excited about it. There is a link to an activity with 15 unlabeled pictures of classrooms all over the world, as well as 15 cards with a city name, facts about the schools and a description of what can be seen in the picture. The goal is to match the photo with the other card. There is also a worksheet with a space to write the letter as well as a description in English of why this card was chosen. **Note the card from the U.S should say St. Louis not Detroit :)

While no, it was not just comparing schools in the US and Mexico, I think it was a great way to bring small town kids a bigger picture of what classroom and and students look like around the entire world, not just the portions that speak Spanish. It is above Spanish 1 reading level, so a lot of support is needed for it to be successful.The goal is not to understand every word, but instead to use clues, context, each other, and deductive reasoning to match them up. 

How to Implement Las aulas del mundo
  • Make enough copies of the 15 cards & worksheet for each group
  • Share the link of the 15 color photos (if you have enough devices for each group, otherwise print and post the color photos around the room).
  • Pre-teach and post the meanings of the five main facts on each card (birth rate, life expectancy, etc). I kept these projected throughout as a resource. 
  • Divide the class into groups of 2-3 students.
  • Move through the room as students are working, helping to clarify, check for understanding, and keep them moving in the right directions. 
  • Once groups finished, I had them compare with other groups, where they had to try and come to a consensus, justifying why their picked option was correct. 
  • There are also a ton of extra questions included in both English and Spanish for reading comprehension if you wanted to take the activity even further, but I chose to just end it at finding out which school was which. 

I was so impressed with how the students worked together and how engaged they were with the activity. Hopefully learning a little bit about classrooms around the world has opened up some students eyes on their way to becoming global citizens. Up next, Chapter 2!

Introducing the novel Tumba

The last quarter of Spanish I this year will be centered around the novel Tumba by Mira Canion. I had the chance to meet Mira at #CSCTFL15 where I botched her name (in case you were wondering it is is pronounced M-eye-ra not M-ear-a). My students think it is pretty cool that I met the author of the book they are reading and that she went to high school in Iowa less that 15 minutes away!

Tumba is centered around the holiday the Day of the Dead in Mexico and is a perfect easy reader for a level one class. The teachers guide and audio book can be purchased here. So far we have read the first two chapters and the students are loving it! I plan to share throughout our journey. 

Last fall we did a mini unit on the Day of the Dead and some of the resources I used can be found here. Once we got back from Spring break this year we spent a couple days preparing to read the novel. Here are a couple of the activities we completed:

1. We watched this video about Día de los Muertos en Michoacán and completed activities by Elena Lopez that can be found here. The video is a great way to introduce some of the typical elements and vocabulary associated with the holiday. 

2. We used this embedded reading for Tumba to introduce structures and characters in the novel. I projected the readings one at a time and read, circled, and discussed them as a class. The next day the plan was to start the novel, but since my son was sick I used these three readings to create an activity for the students to complete individually. For reading one they roughly translated it and answered a comprehension question in Spanish. For reading two they read it and answered comprehension questions in English. Finally for the last reading they read it with a partner and then drew what they understood. A particularly great drawing is shown below. 

I look forward to sharing more soon!


Individual Novel Study in Spanish class

As I mentioned in my post about this year's curriculum, Spanish IV will be finishing the
year doing an individualized novel study. Honestly when I wrote that I was not really sure what that meant for the class, but I knew with their feedback I would come up with a framework for how it would work to have every student in the class reading a different book. Through a couple grants I was able to purchase a variety of books for my classroom library, but besides my class sets, I only have one of each of these books. I want to allow these high level students choice and the chance to differentiate based on their reading level, but logistically I am still figuring out how it will all work out. For now here is the basic outline of this quarter for Spanish IV.

Individual Novel Study in Spanish class


How to Get a Spanish Teaching Job - Prepare for the Interview

I am about to graduate with a teaching degree, how do I get a real teaching job!?!?

This is the second post about getting a world language teaching job. To start see Post #1 - Land an Interview

Step #2 - Prepare for the Interview

How to Get a Spanish Teaching Job -  Prepare for the Interview


How to get a Spanish Teaching Job - Land an Interview

How do I get a world language teaching job!?!?

If you new graduates are anything like I was, you are spending your last semester of school Googling things like "how to write a cover letter," "what to wear to a teaching interview," & "how to prepare to teach a interview Spanish lesson." Or maybe you are ready for a new school and it is time to brush up again. Now I have been on both sides of the interview process and have learned the following the hard way. 
  • I have learned what it is like to be the "2nd choice" multiple times in a row. 
  • I have learned that waiting a week to her back after an interview is the longest seven days of your life. 
  • I have learned that interviews literally make be sick to my stomach. 

I plan to share what I learned the hard way about how to (hopefully!) get the language teaching job you are hoping for. As I started this post it became pretty long, so it will be a 2 part series. *Update - you can find part 2 here.
How to get a Teaching Job - Land an Interview

Música miércoles - bracket style

Confession: I love stealing borrowing using all of the great resources shared by generous bloggers and tweeters. I rarely use anything in my class that I have created from scratch. Sometimes I feel bad about this (for a split second) and them I remember that something from a seasoned, expert teacher is probably much better than what I would have come up with. Plus, let's be honest, chasing a BUSY toddler around does not leave a ton of extra time around to spare. 

Case in point:
I have been wanting to do a Spanish music bracket this year for class, but the inspiration was just not striking and the time just was not there.  
Then last night while scrolling through my phone I found..
***Cue magic wand sound effect***
this awesome post by Bethanie Drew.
There it was, a perfect bracket that was not too big and was filled in with current and popular Spanish songs. The timing could not have been better since today is Música miércoles, and we were just returning from a mini Spring break (Monday & Tuesday). This means kids were wound up and introducing a music bracket challenge was the perfect way to start out our short week. 
bracket of songs by Bethanie Drew

Song Bracket Logistics:

  • I copied Bethanie's bracket on my side board using an old fashioned yardstick & chalk. If I had been planning ahead & my computer had not been stolen I could have typed up nice titles to use on a wall bracket. 
  • Each day all classes will vote on the match up of the day. I decided to spread the songs out, but it could easily be completed and then discussed all at once. Here are some possible ways we will listen to our "match" of the day:
    • Today to introduce the bracket I played both songs & all students put a tally mark on the board for their song of choice. 
    • Post the 2 songs on Google Classroom or our class Twitter account to listen to as homework with a poll or Google form to vote. 
    • Have the task at a listening station. 
    • Use songs as students enter or as a brain break between activities. 
    • Winning extra votes could also be a "prize" in class. 
Here's to a mad & musical March!

5 Big Ideas from CSCTFL15

As you can tell my brain is still bursting with idea from the Central State Conference. I previously wrote about CSCTFL15 & lista lunes CSCTFL15 edition. After going through all of my notes and tweets I came up with the "Big Ideas" that really stuck with me. 
photo shared on Twitter by @SECottrell

1. Use the Language

A common theme from the CI sessions, to ACTFL, to focusing on 90%+ target language use is we MUST conduct language classes in the target language. ACTFL has even recently changed their standards so that every one includes "uses the language to.." Culture should be embedded in everything we do, and taught in a comprehensible manner in the target language. A great tip from Stephanie Iwan Flame is to SHOW students and parents the ACTFL position statement at the beginning of the year and make sure everyone knows to move up the proficiency ladder, we must ALL speak the language together as a team. As a teacher we must fight the urge to take the easy way out and revert to L1, both inside and outside of class. 

2. Make it Comprehensible

According to Carol Gaab the #1 ingredient needed for second language acquisition is comprehensible input. I have learned there are many different ways that this can be achieved, through stories, movie talk, TPRS novels, cultural readings, and many more. A common theme was that as language teachers this input needs to seem easy to students, while building their confidence. We know all students can learn a second language, and we are there to provide opportunities for them to show what they know, but we can not rush the output. We need to limit their vocabulary and focus on just three structures at a time. Also, for a word to actually be a cognate it must LOOK very similar in both languages, not just sound the same. After positive reinforcement and lots and lots of input, once they are ready, students will amaze us with how much they can produce.   

3. Provide Support for Student Success

We know that if we are all using the target language, there will be times when students will not know how to say something. We need to teach them what to do in this situation and not assume they know how to describe what they mean without using the word. Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell's presentation on circumlocution really got me thinking about how I have just left my students in the dust by not making sure they know how to accomplish this very important skill, being able to go beyond "the thing, used for the thing." She said that most communication problems stem from the wrong vocabulary, not grammar. We need to teach students how to play real life Taboo, but describing in any way that they can to get the point across. This combines points 1 & 2 since circumlocution uses the target language to make language comprehensible. 
I finally got to meet Mrs. Musicuentos @SECottrell

4. Encourage Higher-Order Thinking

Carol Gaab's higher order thinking presentation reminded me that although we may be teaching elementary level language skills, our students need to be challenged to think and not just focus on what is correct. We should save the "right answer" for the test, while using class time to discuss using logic. Carol showed many ways we can move beyond just circling around with particular answers straight from the text. Many presenters talked about the importance of connecting personally with the students in a way that they can compare their own experiences with a text, thinking at a much higher level and not just regurgitating facts. 

5. Language class should be the best part of their day!

As language teachers we have the freedom and privilege of being an elective. While what we do is very important to literacy development and we deserve to sit at the core table, we (usually) have a little more leeway when it comes to curriculum. Our class should be a sanctuary and break from the "sit and get" classes, where spontaneity, fun, music, movement, and speaking are the norm. Grant Boulanger mentioned that his class is based around getting to know each other and becoming a caring community of learners, where everyone can feel safe to go out of their comfort zone and make mistakes. Even if you are tied to a textbook, your class can have it's own creative culture within the school. 
from Grant Boulanger's presentation

What were your big takeaways?

Lista lunes 3.16.15

Lista lunes 3.16.15 - CSCTFL15 edition

Here are just a couple of the great resources I found this past weekend at the Central States Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My first post can be found here. is a website in Spanish that is a goldmine of authentic ads in many languages. Carrie Toth (@SenoraCMT) mentioned this site in her sessions this weekend. (It was formerly Commercials make for perfect authentic listening since they are short, to the point and usually include a ton of culture. 

CSCTFL Presentations Pinterest Board

What a great idea to put all of the presentations together in one Pinterest Board! This way I can look through the handouts and presentations that I was not able to make it to. This is way better than a stack of PowerPoint handouts that just get stuffed in a file cabinet!

Lead With Languages Video

Lead With Languages is a campaign that should be coming out soon from ACTFL. This video would be perfect to show to parents at a back to school night, to students at the beginning of the year, or to administrators to show the importance of language learning. 

Spanish Cuentos

El ratón Pablito is just one of the many awesome video stories by Spanish Cuentos. Craig Klein (@profeklein) is an amazing elementary Spanish teacher who teaches with stories he writes himself. His little students speak like natives with only two 45 minute classes a week. What he is doing in his classes is obviously working and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future since he is a fellow Iowan!

Biblioburro & Desfile del yipao

Did you know there is a man who has a mobile library on a Donkey in Colombia!? Profe Klein also introduced me to this positive and fun, cultural idea. There are more resources to teach about Biblioburro here

Also, the Desfile del yipao is an interesting festival in Colombia where trucks are loaded with extreme amounts of stuff! Both of these would be great cultural pieces to add to any Spanish class study of Colombia. 

There are just a couple of the many great new ideas swirling in my brain from Central States!



I have now attended my first regional conference and let me tell you CSCTFL15 was superb! I was finally able to learn from my online heroes and meet so many wonderful #langchat tweeps face to face. Lets just say the picture below happened after being there for an hour! If you have been living under a rock it includes Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell, Martina Bex & Elizabeth Dentlinger.

I have been trying to wrap my head around my pages of notes, tons of tweets, and endless new ideas swirling around in my head. I am predicting many blog posts dedicated to everything I have been thinking about post conference. Unfortunately, they may come at a snails pace typed from my phone or the worlds slowest mini netbook from 2011 since my MacBook Pro school computer was stolen from my car during the conference :(
Thank goodness I have most school files on Google Drive. So if you do not, your homework for today is to save all your important school files in multiple places! I had a noisy ride home with my clear shower curtain and duct tape window, so generously put on by my amazing hosts in Minneapolis (my BFF since 1st grade & her boyfriend). Central States lived up to the reputation of friendliest conference with all of the immediate support and concern via Twitter and on Sunday. 

It was so inspired listening to presentations and talking to @CarolGaab, @SenoraCMT, @MartinaBex, @SECottrell, @profeklein, @grantboulanger, @PSandrock, @jvanhKY & many more.

I also loved getting to see @SraDentlinger again as well as meet @KaraJacobs,  @srahoogeven, @ADiazMora, @natadel76, @NicoleNaditz, @lopezelena, @MCanion & many others I am forgetting to mention or I do not know their Twitter!

I also had my first experience of someone recognizing ME as a blogger! I did not catch your name, but to the woman who told me you love my blog & ideas by the TPRS booth, you made my day!

This week I will be sharing more nuggets of wisdom as I process but for now check out my tweets using #csctfl15 & new new CI discovery of Craig Klein's & Spanish Cuentos Youtube Videos.


Quick Tip: Semana Santa

Hello there!
We are in the middle of conferences and finishing up the quarter, but I thought I would share a couple great resources that I have found while planning a mini unit on Semana Santa, or holy week. I currently teach at a Catholic school, and holidays in the Spanish speaking world are a really easy way to incorporate theology through the culture. Even if you are at a public school, the traditions around the world make for great way to put culture at the core of language teaching. 

This infograph would be perfect to both teach the traditions of Semana Santa, as well as the geography of Mexico. It could be used as a reading comprehension activity, a reading station, or expanded by having groups research and present on how Semana Santa is presented in these different towns or regions. 

This calendar describes what happens each day of holy week this year. 

This blog has a ton more infographs on Semana Santa. 

This Pinterest board has both ideas for Semana Santa, but also Easter as well. 

This is a great Pinterest Board with all things Holy Week.

I plan on basing my mini unit around this awesome cultural unit by the always fabulous Martina Bex. Her embedded readings and activities make it possible to easily teach culture completely in Spanish. 

What resources do you have for Semana Santa? Please share in the comments!


#Confession #1

One of the reasons I started blogging was I wanted new teachers like me to see that not everyone in the blogosphere has it all together. We are human, we make mistakes. It is not all sunshine and rainbows, but it is OK if we are learning a growing from these mistakes. So #confession time, here are just SOME of the mistakes I made this past week:

I used reading and writing in Spanish as a punishment, again. 

Having that class of mostly freshman boys at the end of the day constantly tests my patience, especially on Friday. Some days I try and push through the disrespect and talking over me as I attempt to circle, personalize, and work through a reading together. Other days I reach my limit and stop and stare at them and see how long it will take them to realize I am standing in front of them waiting to continue. Sometime I continue on, but others like this week, I snap and say you must silently finish the reading and questions on your own and turn it in at the end of class. So much for TPRS strategies, old school marm it is. 

I gave a 0 on a project

A board game created for a choice board end of novel unit was turned in with questions straight from the Internet. Hint: if you are going to copy questions from the Internet, change the numbering so it makes sense. A quick Google search of one question in quotes came up with the full list of questions. I entered a 0 and told the student to come talk to me about options. I know that this will tank their grade and will not be a true reflection of their learning, and would be willing to let them do a new project to show their skill and regain points. But, the student will not admit that it is not their work or talk to me about redoing the project, so the 0 stands. 

I freaked out on 3 students

I am all for having fun and joking around, but if you lie to my face when I confront you about a situation, I may freak out on you. Three boys were the victims of my wrath when they assisted in the prank of stealing a girl's phone, passing it to a kid who took it to another class, and then lying to my face about it. Do I think the yesterday's full moon had anything to do with the Friday crazies? You betcha. Could there have been better ways to handle the situation? Absolutely.

How to learn & grow from here

This time of year is HARD for teachers. It is still cold and grey and gross outside and everyone is just fed up with winter and being cooped up together. It is BURN OUT season, where everyone is over school and the end of the year seems too far away. So, I need to step up my A game, and try and bring back some positive energy to end the year with a bang. 
So to end on a positive note, here are some of my wins for the week:
  • A very successful "MORP" dance put on by my great Student Council to raise money for Stand for the Silent, which including me doing the "Single Ladies" dance. 
Have a great weekend! - Allison 

When students become the teachers

Today a wonderful, unexpected thing happened in Spanish IV. All of the sudden two students were up at the front boards leading the class in reviewing the novel Cajas de Cartón. (I have also blogged about planning literature conversation circles with this novel). While this bright group never ceases to amaze me, today I leaned back in my chair in the back of the room, and just took it in thinking to myself, "Wow, they have really learned some Spanish."

Granted this class is small, only ten of the best and brightest, but I just marvel at the great leaders they have become. These were my sophomore babies, who I also had in homeroom my first year, and am now in my third year as being their teacher. The last two years teaching this novel have been a struggle and fight, because "it was too hard" and I made them (gasp!) read, think, write, and discuss a real novel in Spanish. But this year, it has just gone so smooth! Granted, I am yet to see their final essay test they will complete Thursday, but if it is anything like their class discussions, I think I will be impressed. 

Today a few students were out on a government field trip to the state capital, and I had just roughly planned that we would finish discussing the end of the book, as well as review for the essay test. I have learned that with a bright group like this one, I ASK THEM, how they would like to review, and what they would like to discuss. Suddenly, a student was up at the board making a timeline of important events in the book, and another on the other side making a family tree with characteristics of each main character, from the input given by their classmates. Sure, I was providing probing questions and occasional suggestions from the back, but the STUDENTS were the ones facilitating the class. 

Today really reminded me first of all how blessed I am to have this wonderful class, one that I honestly look forward to every day. It was also great to be the coach on the sideline (like Amy Lenord), watching the team captains run the plays. I completely understand that something like this, offering unlimeted choice, may can not work in every class. (I am especially thinking of my rowdy class of freshman boys who need every minute planned or they erupt in mass chaos). At the same time, maybe I have not seen this kind of leadership from the freshman, because I have been doing them a disservice, insisting on a teacher focused class for reasons of behavior management. Either way, I need to remember that choice should not just be for Real World Homework, but everyday in the classroom as well. 

So no, I do not have any resources to share today. It is more of post for a proud mama bear to reflect on how far we have come as a class. But I will leave you with this thought I am pondering.

Does my class allow the students the opportunity to amaze me?

Lista lunes 3.2.15

Lista lunes 3.2.15

Happy March! Here is what I am loving right now from around the web.
 **Please click the links & credit the original sources**

El Gran Debate del Vestido 

Anne K from Confesiones y Realidades put together this awesome photo in Spanish to use as a talking point for #thedress. Some may be already over it, but others are still fired up defending their side, perfect for discussion in the target language!

Mike Peto's Word Wall

Since I will be moving schools next year, I have a whole new room to plan! I fee like a first year teacher and now want to start from scratch and make all of my "decorations" on the walls a worthwhile use of space. I plan to use Mike's high frequency words as an inspiration.  

El Libro de Vida Plans

Kara has done it again with an awesome movie guide, this time for the movie El Libro de Vida or The Book of Life. Spanish 1 is going to end the year with the novel Tumba by Mira Canion (Yes, I know wrong time of year, but it works with where we are :) and this movie will be a perfect complement. You can see my review of the movie here.

More Resources for El Internado

Bethanie posted her collaboration with Kara Jacobs on viewing guides for episode 3-6 of season 1 of El Internado. If you have been reading here for a while you know how obsessed my students and I are with this show. I started Spanish II on the show this semester, so we will be actually starting episode 3 this week and I am excited to use this guide. Fun fact, I actually got the chance to chat with Bethanie about El Internado this summer as a part of the Langcamp group :)

Why Study Spanish - Sub Plans

Who doesn't need more ready to go sub plans for non Spanish speakers!?! These infographs come with questions ready to go when you are in a pinch. 

While the little guy had fun in the snow this weekend, we are ready for Spring!
Have a great week! - Allison 

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