Café y Conversación: guest post from Jen Ries - Mis Clases Locas

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Café y Conversación: guest post from Jen Ries

Inside:  Guest blogger Jen Ries explains how she uses Café y Conversación to get her upper level students speaking in Spanish. 

Café y Conversación: guest post from Jen Ries on Mis Clases Locas

Cafe y Conversación was born out of many things. I was wanting more authentic conversation to happen with my upper levels. I also was looking for a way to bring more culture into the classroom (always, right?) We all know that the Spanish culture revolves around, café y conversación! I knew students would love having somethings to drink, then we sit down, circle up, and talk in Spanish for 35-40 minutes.

How I set up Café y Conversación
This info sheet sets up the rules, expectations, and guidelines for it to flow well.

I have a coffee pot with hot water, and provide hot chocolate, cappuccino, cider, tea, instant coffee, and creamer. Students are welcome to bring their own mug or cup and their own mix too if they would like. I ask that this process not take more than five minutes as this is not the main focus for the day, the conversation is.

The conversation topic is chosen 3-5 days before, so students have time to prepare ideas, opinions, thoughts, facts on the topic. I use Google Classroom to share the list of topics, and they take a poll to vote on the topic of the class. The topic options I have used are on page two. I tried to think of topics I hear them debating as the come in and out of class. I would like to get students input on topics too, but of course something somewhat controversial helps to keep the conversation going.

How students prepare for Café y Conversación
Students have a pre-thinking conversation sheet they can (not required) to fill out to help them thinking through and prepare for that days conversation.

They can only write on this sheet in English, no Spanish. As the Spanish is suppose to be spontaneous and authentic. However, if there are common vocabulary words they notice themselves wanting on the days topics, we take a minute to ask before we start about some new, common words we will need during this conversation. We put those two or three words up on the board.

Implementing Café y Conversación
I have done this with a class of about 12-15. Any bigger and I think we would have to do two separate topics, two separate groups, two separate days. I have thought about having the two go simultaneously, however then it can be difficult to hear who is saying what.

As the maestra I try not to talk too much. I will repeat questions or statements, or just direct to whom would like to be talking. The first one is very choppy as its learning for them and for you. “I talk” “he talks” by the 3rd and 4th conversation, students are just flowing, and talking as hoped for.

Students are “assessed” on this using the overarching speaking and writing rubric that we have for all Spanish 1-4. I bold our goals, and assign a point value. And from the conversation prep sheet, I also have students give themselves a score based of their participation.

So the true goal of this, is not to hear perfect Spanish, but to see effort of students TRYING to speak Spanish. They are attempting full sentences, correct endings and combining it all with vocabulary in a conversation.

Reflecting on Café y Conversación
The first time students were SO NERVOUS, but after it was over, they were so happy and proud. Here is what they said:
  • “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be”
  • “I was so nervous, but once I got going I forgot all about it”
  • “I went to my next class thinking and speaking in Spanish, Señorita.”
  • “I thought 35 minutes was a long time, but it went by so fast!”

The student conversation sheet also has a space for reflection at the end of the period. I also always ask students to write one thing they felt like they did really well that day, and write one thing they hope to work on or improve for next conversation.

The year end reflections question “What is one thing that went well and we should do again next year?” Over and over students said “Café y Conversación!” Expressing how it was challenging, but it forced them out of their comfort zone to USE the Spanish. The chill environment and coffee helped alleviate a little stress, not to mention it was something fun to look forward to. I will plan to carry this on to my Spanish 4 next year and continue this in Spanish 3.

How often will we do we do Café y Conversación?
I do some “back at it stuff” in the fall with both level 3 and 4, so it is about October before we get started which is fine for a lot of reasons.
  •  Kids stare at the coffee corner in excitement and anticipation and say, “When do we get to do that Señorita?” 
  • We wait for Fall, which is perfect for warm drinks

I plan to do it about every other week from October until about March. I do not have a specific day of the week for it, but you could put it into your set weekly or bi-weekly routine.

I’m not great at taking pictures as much as I should and it is summer, so I don’t have pictures of my “corner.” I bought my coffee pot and a bunch of coffee mugs from a local thrift shop, $.25 a mug and $3.00 for the coffee maker. Kids love random fun mugs. I also asked the kitchen for help in washing them each café day, and they did not have a problem. (So I lucked out!)

Do you do anything like this in your class? We would love to hear about your version!

More about our guest blogger Jen
Jen Ries is also a department of 1 in small town Iowa, SMALLER than Mis Clases Locas! In a town of 500, she teach Spanish I, II, III and IV as the only foreign languages offered at the school. She is also the K-12 ESL coordinator, when needed. Jen can't believe she is approaching her 10th year teaching. She is a proud Central College graduate, where she studied abroad for TWO entire semesters in Merida, Mexico and Granada, Spain. Like many language teachers she loves to travel and braves the world with High School students every 2 years. She has taken four Spanish trips with students, and is prepping for her 5th next summer to the Yucatan area. She is married to her high school sweetheart, and they have been together 16 years, married for 5. They have two girls, Evelynn (3) and Mabelynn (2) and one more on the way in October. She loves teaching, having fun, talking (a lot), coffee, FOOD, and wine (when not pregnant, of course!)

Jen & her adorable family
Jen has just started sharing resources at Cosas Divertidas & you can connect with her on Instagram @cosas_divertidas_ries

Café y Conversación: guest post from Jen Ries on Mis Clases Locas

Thank you so much Jen for sharing your ideas and resources! Jen actually brought up this idea in the Mis Clases Locas Facebook Group and with the high level of interest, I told her she should just do a guest post. Do you have something you would like to share? Reach out to me and maybe you could do a guest post!


  1. I cannot wait for school to start again so I can implement this! As usual, thanks!

  2. This looks awesome--I've tried similar things but haven't had much luck (or been too consistent myself). Looking forward to the start of the school year so I can try this out! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I am doing this, this coming Friday with my IB juniors. I am excited and would like to look up other topics to discuss in the future. Thank you for the documents and sharing.


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