It's that time of year again! All of my Spanish resources are 25% off! Lots of great activities for back to school and all year round!
I am excited to announce that we are hosting a Back to School Giveaway just for Spanish teachers! Three lucky teachers will win a $50 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card! Enter now and go back to school with some fresh and fun new resources! ENTER HERE
I have had a lot of teachers contact me with interest and questions about one of my previous posts in which I talked about the concept of Breakout EDU. So, I decided to do a follow up post to answer some of those questions and provide all of you with some tips and tricks that I have learned through experiencing this in my own classroom.
PART 1: Materials
The first thing teachers want to know is what materials they need to begin using Breakout Games in their classrooms. If you are just getting started, I would suggest trying one of my Breakout Games with your classes before you purchase materials - just to make sure that it is something that you are into before you buy a bunch of materials. I created my games so that they can be used without all of the trappings of typical Breakout Games, but the thrill of breaking into those boxes is definitely part of the allure.
When it comes to materials, you have a couple of options. You can purchase a ready-made kit from the fine folks at Breakout EDU. You can also piece together your own kit. I find it to be more cost-effective to create my own kits (plus I'm just really addicted to Amazon), but the benefit of purchasing the Breakout EDU kit is that you have the official logo on all your goodies. Whichever you decide on, here is what I consider the essentials...
Part 2: Funding
A lot of teachers ask how they can fund this type of thing. While it is not as expensive as an iPad, it does come at an expense. The good news is that these materials will last. They are not something that you will need to purchase over and over again.
I originally funded my project through a grant given by my school district for creative instructional strategies. It was a small grant and I quickly found that to maximize student engagement I would need to run several groups at a time (each tackling the same game). This meant that I would need 2 more identical sets of the materials you see above. I received that funding through Donors Choose.
I have also gotten a lot of support from local escape room owners. I reached out to many of them when I first started the project, explained what I was doing, and asked them for advice/suggestions. They really opened up some great opportunities for me and my students. They let me come in and try their games, they donated money and supplies, and they also offered discounts to other teachers who wanted to try this in their classrooms.
Part 3: Games
Once you have the materials (and the money to buy them), it's time to find some games. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of games available for Spanish. You can find a few on the Breakout EDU website. They are fine for starter games, but I found that they weren't quite as skill dependent as I wanted. Of course their catalogue is constantly growing.
Another option is to create games yourself. You can base them on a particular theme or unit, a book or movie, or a particular tradition. With a creative eye, anything can become a Breakout Game. I will get into game creation a bit more in a future blog post, but Pinterest is a great place to start. I have put together a whole board of things I have found helpful on my own Breakout Game journey. Feel free to follow it by clicking HERE!
If you want to save yourself the time and trouble, you can try one of my Breakout Games. My games are built on a specific theme (family, school, health, weather, etc) and they are editable as well. This means that you can see how I have created these games and use my formatting and set up to then try your hand at creating your own.
Part 4: Benefits
Everyone wants to know what are the benefits of using Breakout Games with your students. I can honestly say that these games are, by far, the best activities that I have done with my students in perhaps my whole career. Here are some of the best things about Breakout Games:
Keep the questions coming everyone! You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with anything you are curious about.
Homework is a much debated topic today, and as a teacher and a mom, I have landed somewhere in the middle. Research shows that homework does have a positive effect on student achievement (for example, one study showed that on average, for every 30 minutes of homework per night, overall GPA increased by 1/2 point), but that still leaves the teacher to work out a lot of the details: When will you give homework? How much will you give? Will you accept late homework? How late?
Setting up and communicating a clear homework policy is important. It helps students and parents know what to expect and can protect you when expectations inevitably are not met. Some school districts set and communicate a blanket homework policy that is adhered to by all teachers. In my school, it is up to the individual teacher, so I will share my policy and give you an idea of why I do things the way I do.
This policy has come to be the one that I have landed on after many years of trying different things. I have found that having consistent homework days (in my case Tuesdays and Thursdays) has really helped my students to know when they have homework and plan around other things they have going on outside of school. It has also helped me to plan my instructional week.
10-15 minute assignments may not sound like much, but I am only one of 7 teachers that my students see everyday (and surely not the only one assigning homework). Call me soft, but I believe that there are other things that students do outside of school that are important as well (de-stressing, playing a game, being with their families, watching a favorite show, practicing a sport). If I want well-rounded, happy students who are ready to learn when they come in the door, I need to have respect for the other things that they find fulfilling in life and choose to do in their free time.
So what type of homework practice should you assign? Here are a few ideas...
-Do your students review vocabulary with notecards, Quizlet, or virtual flashcards? Have them chart their speed and/or accuracy as they review at home to show their improvement throughout the week.
-Target something specific. If you are using data from recent assessments to see where your students have trouble, choose one of those areas of weakness or misconceptions and create an assignment based on just that. If your students are struggling to remember that adjectives come after nouns in Spanish, or if they keep forgetting to make adjectives agree, focus on that.
-Have students step back and look at the big picture. While some work with discrete skills is necessary, the larger concepts are as well. After students learn family vocabulary and look at authentic material from the target culture, ask them to assimilate this information by having them describe (maybe in English) what the role of the family is in Latin American culture based on what they have seen. After students learn that descriptive adjectives come after nouns instead of before as in English, have them comment on what advantages and disadvantages this has from a communicative standpoint.
Keep in mind, in order for homework to be effective, there are a lot of factors to consider.
Here are some of the highlights of what the research says is most effective...
-The effectiveness of homework increases with age. Homework assigned to 10-12th graders is twice as effective as homework assigned to 7-9th graders.
-Homework that is graded is more than twice as effective as homework that is not graded, BUT homework with teacher's comments as feedback is the most effective of all (graded or not).
Not to burst your summer bubble too early, but our Back to School Spanish Ebook has just been published! This handy little number has pages loaded with tips, tricks, and freebies to help buy you some of your time back once the glorious days of summer have come to an end!
Also, don't forget to check out some of the new resources I have been working on this summer including sub plans, virtual field trips (all ready for Google Classroom), speaking prompts, additional song activities, and the most fun you can have while teaching (or learning for that matter) - Breakout Games!
Click the cover of the ebook to download yours now!
There are only 4 sales a year on Teachers Pay Teachers, so if you are looking for some resources to help you end this year or if you are already setting your sights on the next year, this is the best time to buy! Stop by our store and check it out!
Isn't it obvious? Doesn't everyone know that the more effort you put forth the more likely you are to succeed at something? Surprisingly, your students may not! Yet the practices of reinforcing effort and providing recognition have been statistically proven to raise student achievement.
I too made the assumption that my students knew what effort was and that, by the time they got to my high school classroom, they knew that it was one of the keys to achievement. However, what I assumed and what I saw in my own students told two different stories. So I asked them one day "what does it mean to put forth effort?". The common response was "it means you try something". But when I saw what "trying" was to some of my students it looked more like trying escargot than Spanish. They would take a tiny taste, get an awful look on their face, and that would be the end of it. This was not the kind of effort I wanted and it was certainly not the kind of effort that results in achievement.
So, we defined "effort" in a bit more detail.
Effort is... Effort is NOT...
-working on something until it is done -leaving a task incomplete
-continuing to try when something is difficult -giving up when something is not easy
-seeing difficulties or unknowns as opportunities -seeing difficulties as barriers
If you are going to ask your students to reflect on their effort, they need to come to a consensus as to what it is in the first place. This is a great conversation to have on those first days of school and I would not start a year without it.
Once you have established a definition, have students log their effort for tasks during your first unit. At the end of each class, as an exit ticket perhaps, have students give themselves an effort score and an achievement score as follows...
I would recommend doing this a few times a week for different types of assignments (listening, speaking, writing, reading). As the year goes on I decrease the frequency, but whenever we are approaching those tough times of the year (before breaks, on assembly days, end of the year), I ramp it up again. The goal is to make sure they never lose sight of how effort DOES directly impact achievement - so if they do seem to be losing sight of this, it's time to refocus them on what truly matters.
The second part of this strategy deals with providing recognition. The important part here is that the recognition needs to be directly connected to something the student has done to improve his or her achievement. Recognition is far more effective when it is personalized and directed towards the individual (rather than the group or class as a whole). Many teachers have elaborate reward systems in place for students - pesos, and stickers, and stamps, etc. There is nothing wrong with providing concrete symbols of recognition, but again, it should be tied to the student meeting a performance goal.
So what are other effective ways to provide recognition?
-give the student a shout out on social media
-send a positive email or postcard to parents
-hold a one-on-one student : teacher conversation
-add an example of their work to a student work gallery
-give them a special privilege in the classroom (being allowed to charge their phone, sit in the rolly chair, sit on their desk instead of in it - see my FREE Secondary Reward Coupons for more ideas)
-give students badges (similar to what many video games do) for specific language-based achievements such as being able to count from 1-10, say the alphabet, introduce themselves, etc
Here are some of the badges I use for my beginning language students. You can get them HERE.
No matter how you decide to incorporate recognition into your classroom, just remember that it means a lot to kids. We're working with a generation of kids that is used to fake recognitions, awards of participation, and medals for showing up. This type of recognition is different, it is meaningful, because you are recognizing what kids can actually do and what they have achieved. Not to mention, it's just a fun and special thing to add to your classroom that kids will remember for years to come.
The second of Marzano's strategies focuses on asking students to summarize information and helping them to take notes in a meaningful way.
One mistake I made early on in my teaching career was assuming that students knew how to summarize and take notes, but I quickly learned that was not necessarily true. I found that when I would introduce a grammar concept, students would want to write down every word and every example exactly how I wrote it instead of taking the time to actually listen to and process the information being shared.
Now that I have moved to a proficiency-based classroom and no longer do direct grammar instruction (I have switched to teaching grammar inductively), summarizing and taking notes usually focuses on authentic reading/listening samples and cultural information. I often give my students something to read and instead of giving them comprehension questions, I give them a form like this one...
This is a type of Summary Frame that I adapted for use with narratives or stories in the target language. If you have a textbook that has a Fotonovela for each chapter (as most of them do), these work great for those as well. The story does not have to be read, it can also be something that students view. It can be used with everything from cortometrajes to full length movies.
Here is an example of how this might be completed for the story "El Agua Mágica para el Rey" which I use from a great site for children's stories in Spanish called Chiquipedia.
Another type of Summary Frame I use is specifically for summarizing conversations in the target language. Interpersonal Speaking is arguably the most difficult mode of communication, so I like to model the process of back and forth communication frequently through listening activities. This tool helps students to identify some of the most common elements and patterns seen in conversations and can be used as a launching point for conversations of their own.
Here is an example of how the completed form might look after a student listens to a conversation about a movie event.
We have a lot of culture discussions in class as we learn about people, places, and products of the target culture. This is information that I want my students to know, but I do not present it is as notes. Instead, we look at pictures and artifacts and have discussions about them. While we do this, students complete a sheet like the one you see below. This note-taking sheet focuses heavily on visual information. Students are supposed to draw (or copy/paste images) to accompany any information that they write down. Students can many times capture much more information in a picture and are more apt to do so since it requires less handwriting. Asking them to draw and take notes in word form requires them to process what they see and understand in the moment rather than just copying down my words like a scribe without really having to pay attention to what it all means.
A completed sheet (after a targeted look at the country of Argentina) might look something like this...
Interested in using some of these summarizing and note-taking strategies in your own classroom? You can download all 3 templates seen here in the file below. Let me know how you like using them!
Let's talk about seating...
When you first think about how to seat students in your classroom, you are likely thinking about ways you can curb certain behaviors that are distractors in the classroom. You think about putting those two kids on opposite sides of the room from one another, this kid up front, that kid entrusted to the back, etc. But instead of looking at seating arrangements as a preventative measure only, you can start to think of how you can use seating to increase the effectiveness of your instructional activities.
So, let's look at 8 different seating arrangements that can be used in any classroom and when/what activities each is best suited for...
Seating Arrangement 1: Small Groups
-inductive grammar lessons
-small group games like "descúbrelo" or "yo veo"
Seating Arrangement 2: Large Groups
This seating arrangement allows for larger groups which is perfect for differentiation. Each group can be working on a different skill collaboratively while the teacher has easy access to each group to facilitate that process.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-Breakout EDU Games
Seating Arrangement 3: Pairs
This seating arrangement allows for easy communication between two people which makes it ideal for interpersonal speaking practice and info gap activities.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-information gap activities
Seating Arrangement 4: Whole Class
This seating arrangement works well for whole class activities. The students can all see/hear each other and the teacher can easily see all students.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-Whole class Speaking Activities
-I have / Who has Activities
-Telephone Style Writing Activities
Seating Arrangement 5: Out-facing
This seating arrangement works great when you need to increase the concentration and focus of your students. Turning students away from the center of the classroom creates a feeling of privacy and minimizes distractions since students can not see one another.
WORKS WELL FOR...
- Listening Activities
- IPA Assessments
- Formative Assessments
- Administering Proficiency Tests / Student Growth Measures
Seating Arrangement 6: In-Facing
This seating arrangement is great for whole class activities because students can see and hear their classmates as well as the teacher and board. This makes it idea for whole class activities involving speaking or discussion.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-Whole class speaking activities
-Oral Review Activities
Seating Arrangement 7: Traditional Rows
This seating arrangement is good for individual seat work. The teacher has easy access to answer student questions. This is my go to seating arrangement for days I have a sub.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-Individual Seat Work
-Infographic Reading Activities
-Sub Plan Days
Seating Arrangement 8: Theater Style
This seating arrangement is perfect for lessons that focus on any kind of visual that must be seen clearly by all students.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-viewing target language movies
-viewing target language music vides / song activities
So I know what you're thinking - "I don't want to have to move my desks around EVERY TIME I do a different activity. Of course not! So here is my recommendation..
Think about the types of activities you do most in your classroom and choose 3-4 seating arrangements that are most conducive to those types of activities. Once you have chosen them, teach them to your students. You will probably find that there are at least 1 or 2 that you would hardly ever use because you just don't do that type of activity. For me, I rarely do seat work (I typically assign that sort of thing for homework instead) so I do not use traditional rows. My typical seating is in small groups, so that is my default. In my classroom, I call them "formations". When we are about to take a quiz I tell them "get into testing formation" and they know what that is and move the desks accordingly. Once they know the seating arrangements you like to use, they can not only reproduce them, but the change is an immediate signal to the type of activity and expectations.
Regardless of where you teach, what age student you teach, or what subject you teach - you have likely been asked to demonstrate how you use "research-based strategies" in your teaching. The most popular and widely studied of those strategies were developed by Dr. Marzano. He identified 9 strategies that have been proven to be effective (in varying degrees) by research. Even if you know these strategies though, it is not always clear how they should or could be put to use in your classroom. So, I thought I would take some time to go through each one and give some ideas as to how they can be used specifically in the instruction of foreign language.
We will start with the most effective strategy; Identifying Similarities & Differences
Falling under this strategy include activities that ask students to compare, classify, and create metaphors & analogies.
-Have students compare cultural celebration and practices from the target culture to their own using a venn diagram or comparison matrix
-Have students compare the meaning of a series of vocabulary words (cocinar, cocina, cocinero) and then another that includes at least one of the same words (cocinero, bombero, enfermero)
-Have students take a list of vocabulary to be learned and break it into their own categories. For example, upon receiving a list of words related to the house, students might classify words for items based on what room of the house they would commonly be found in.
-Have students look closely at verbs used in sentences and classify them according to the subject
3) Creating Analogies
-Give students two words and ask them to think about the relationship between those two things, then give them a third word and have them come up with a word that relates in the same way. For example, comer is to pollo as beber is to _______?
Looking for activities that fit this strategy? Here are a few of my favorites...click to learn more!
I have been teaching Spanish for the past 15 years in a large Suburban School District.
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