This year we focused on Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Frida Kahlo, and Fernando Botero.
Here are some of my favorites alongside their inspirational photographs from the target culture.
Each year during the last full week before Thanksgiving, my students participate in an Art Interpretation Project. At the beginning of the week, they choose a photograph that inspires them on which to base their project. Then, each day, they learn about a different Spanish or Latin American artist (in the target language). They apply what they have learned by creating a drawing of their photograph through the eyes of each artist. The goal of the project is to learn about important people from the target culture, but also to pass on a bigger message about different perspectives and the value that they hold.
This year we focused on Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Frida Kahlo, and Fernando Botero.
Here are some of my favorites alongside their inspirational photographs from the target culture.
You can purchase this project with all the necessary materials in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Click here to see the full description.
Escape rooms are popping up all over the country, and if you haven't heard of them before, you are missing out on a great way to increase engagement in your Spanish classroom in a fun and challenging way.
Basically, Escape Rooms are places where you and a group of your friends or family can go, pay someone money to lock you in a room, and then try your hand at solving puzzles in order to figure out how to get out within the 60 minute time limit. Breakout EDU takes all of the fun of an Escape Room and moves it to the classroom.
During a Breakout game, students work in groups to solve a series of puzzles that will give them combinations to open locked boxes and ultimately win the game. The materials are pretty simple - boxes, locks, and puzzles. If you're not sure you are ready to go that far, even just the puzzles will get your students applying their newly found Spanish skills in new ways. If you want to just jump in, it is relatively easy to have your project financially supported with local grants or through websites like donorschoose.org. There is even a company that sells a Breakout EDU kit just for educators for around $100. The site also features ready made games that can be downloaded, though there isn't much in the way of Spanish yet which is why I had to create me own games. I made my own kit with materials purchased from Amazon because I was picky about what I wanted and it was a bit cheaper to piece it together myself.
The benefits of involving your students in Breakout games are many. Students will learn important real world skills, such as how to work together, problem solve, and think creatively. From a content perspective, I have found that not only are the puzzles that students will be asked to solve a great way to review concepts, culture, and vocabulary...but they also increase student motivation BIG TIME. Students seem to WANT to learn the material well because they know the games are coming. I knew my students would like Breakout EDU, but I did not expect to overhear comments like "this is the only reason I came to school today". Giving students a reason to be excited about coming to school is a great thing - if every student had something to be excited about every day at school, I think we would see a much different atmosphere school wide (idealistic, I know, but it has to start somewhere).
We have been learning about food for the past week and I have been stuffing kids full of vocabulary and comprehensible input in preparation for our big launch into talking about what we eat in Spanish later this week. I will be giving them a reading & listening assessment tomorrow, so today was the perfect day to see exactly how much they can understand when it comes to food in Spanish.
Puzzle 1: Students were given a card with clues and a word search. On the back of the card was a hint that said "Remember, sharing is caring!". Once the students found the word for each clue, they had to find the letters that were shared by two words and that gave them the 4 letter code to open up their first box.
Puzzle #2: The first box contained a message, in Spanish, that they students had to figure out. The message directed them to look for a specific food item in a crate full of plastic food. Once they found the correct food item, they found a key attached to it which allowed them to open the next box.
Puzzle #3: The next box contained two lacing puzzles. Students had to use the puzzle to lace Spanish and English food words with the same meaning together. If they did it correctly, there would be 3 arrows showing on each puzzle (other arrows would become covered by the string as they completed the puzzle, so they had to complete it to figure out what the correct arrows were). Once they had completed both lacing puzzles, they had 6 arrows visible which were the code to a directional lock that would open the next box.
Puzzle #4: The last puzzle consisted of 7 popsicle sticks, each with 6 letters and a key. Students had to use the popsicles to form 6 different Spanish food words. Once they knew what the 6 words were, they then used the key to work out a simple equation which gave them the key to the final box. I typically split my class into 3 teams so that they can compete with each other. The first team to open the last box will find keys inside. They get to keep a key to put on their keyring and that is how we keep track of their "wins" throughout the year.
For those of you who are interested, I am currently working on getting some of these puzzles put together for you in my store. This way you can have your students try them as group activities even if you don't have the locks and other materials to do the whole Breakout game. They will still enjoy them, learn to work together, and be applying what they have learned in new ways! So, stay tuned...
This week we are beginning our review of how to talk about likes & dislikes in Spanish. We are also throwing in some new vocabulary as an extension of what they learned in Spanish 1 with phrases such as me importa, me aburre, and me molesta.
I wanted to come up with an activity that would not only allow them to learn some of these important phrases, but also that would be genuine and allow them to get to know one another better.
I gave each student one of these papers and asked them to consider how they felt about each item or activity.
Then, I had them cut away any phrases that did NOT describe how they felt about the item or activity, leaving only the one that did describe how they feel intact.
They could then quickly and easily lay their paper on top of a classmates to see what they had in common. Only one phrase would appear if they both felt the same way, but if they felt differently, two phrases would show.
They then were responsible for keeping track of how many matches they had with each of their classmates, and listing one of the things they had in common.
This first activity was meant to focus on reading comprehension and get the students used to the new vocabulary.
Next week, when we work on speaking and writing, these papers will contain genuine information that students will be able to talk about in Spanish. I will use them to introduce the structures that use the indirect object pronouns le, nos, and les as we talk about what different people have in common and what we have in common with others.
It can also be easily converted into an information gap activity.
The best part was that the students were SO INTERESTED to see what they had in common with each other. They even wanted to see what they had in common with me. One of my girls was very excited when we got 9 matches. I was not expecting that!
DOWNLOAD YOUR OWN EDITABLE COPY OF THIS MATCHMAKER ACTIVITY HERE!
It all starts with a simple list of words. We know that students need words if they ever want to achieve any degree of proficiency, but what do we do with these words? Do we just hand them over and say "memorize"? That doesn't work - not when you want students to retain these words long enough for them to be accessed for purposeful communication.
So, what DOES work? Research shows that someone needs to be exposed to a word 15-20 times before they will have a high probability of learning that word - and retaining, well that's a whole other story. We also know that short, frequent bursts of learning vocabulary are more effective than a single session of the same duration. Some teachers prefer to leave this up to the students - to assign a 15-20 minute study session each night, to thumb through a pile of flashcards, or to do an exercise on Quizlet. Vocabulary is central to communication - more important than verb conjugations or tenses, more important than accent marks, more important than...well...pretty much anything. Since vocabulary is so important, teachers should make vocabulary learning a priority in their classroom activities. And, if you want students to retain and actually be able to use that vocabulary, there needs to be some sort of deliberate progression to your vocabulary instruction.
This chart shows various activities that can be used to build vocabulary skills that will lead to proficient readers, listeners, speakers, and writers. The activities range in difficulty from level 1 to 10; with levels 1-5 focusing on vocabulary recognition (interpretive skills) and levels 6-10 focusing on vocabulary production and exchange (presentational and interpersonal skills). Each activity takes approximately 10 minutes and each day the difficulty level is raised. I have found that in two weeks (10 school days) it is possible for novice students to master between 20-40 words, on average, using this technique.
I have used this sequence of vocabulary instruction for several years now and I can honestly say that it builds strong vocabulary skills not only in the best students, but in the worst students too. And once they have a strong vocabulary, your worst students have the potential to become among your best. It is all about short, frequent bursts of exposure and gradual ratcheting up of the student's responsibility for language acquisition. Also very important is the reduced reliance on the native language on the part of the student. They should not hear it or see it. Each of these activities employs pictures to make up for gaps in the current target language vocabulary, and minimizes the student's need to revert back to English.
Looking for some ready-made vocabulary activities? I've got you covered!
-Themed Word Wheels with activity ideas
-Themed, Tiered Speaking Prompts
Think about your favorite activities to review vocabulary. Where would they fall on the chart? How could you make slight adjustments to make the activity of a higher or lower difficulty level?
Each year we begin school with an informal open house. Parents and students are in and out of our classrooms for several hours in the evening, but the opportunity to impart any valuable information on them is limited and rushed.
This year I developed what I am calling a "Spanish Parent FAQ" to have available as a handout that parents can take with them. I find that many parents want to leave Open House with something tangible because, like us, they are seeing a flurry of people in a condensed period of time. Once the newness of the year wears off and reality sets in, the concerns of parents change, and addressing some of the most common questions up front can save everyone some grief.
During my 15+ years as a Spanish teacher, I have heard the same questions a million times. Parents are all pretty much concerned about the same things because they know that a bad year for their kid equals a bad year for them too. Your focus during face time with parents should always be in communicating that you are dedicated to their child - not just to the standards or the content of your course. They are trusting you with their children, and if you earn their trust in that way, you will have their trust with everything else as well. Use your face time to relate to them on a personal level and let them read about the course "stuff" as they need to.
Here is my FAQ in case you want some ideas for creating your own!
What other questions do you frequently get from parents? Leave me your ideas in the comments below!
After several years teaching out of a backpack, I am happy to say that I have my own classroom again. School starts next week, so this week I have been working hard to get everything set up.
Not making it any easier is the strange fact that a movie is being filmed at our school this week. "My Friend Dahmer" is based on the graphic novel about a man who was friends with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in high school. I guess our school had the 70's feel they were looking for. Yesterday they were filming outside and today they were filming in the hallway right outside my classroom...hope I didn't make it in as an unintentional extra...but I digress.
I thought I would give you all a sneak peak at my classroom in case it gives you any ideas for your own!
My Classroom Requests Bulletin Board (also available in my store) so that students can operate in the target language to meet their daily needs.
My desk with a fun flag border I made from scrapbook paper. The pockets below help keep me organized; one for things I need to take to the office, one for no-name papers, one for Make-up tests, and one for our Postcrossing profiles of people who we need to send postcards out to.
My supply organizer that I got from Amazon. Lots of great buckets for easy clean up and organization.
Our Breakout Wall! I am super excited because I received a grant to put on breakout games as part of my classroom. If you are not yet familiar with Breakout EDU, not to worry. I plan to do a follow up post on this once we get going. Eventually this jewelry organizer will be filled with keys that students earn for successfully "breaking out" of Spanish class by solving a series of puzzles. Stay tuned - it's going to be fun!
My new desk arrangement thanks to Pinterest. The desks are grouped in 4's and each group has a 5 Drawer Sterilite organizer that will hold the following:
Drawer 1: Cell phones
Drawer 2: Supplies (glue sticks, scissors, pencils, markers, notecards, etc)
Drawer 3: Dry Erase Boards w/ markers
Drawer 4: Workbooks
Drawer 5: Textbooks
Still to go up (once I can figure out the best way to stick things to cinder block) is my music wall featuring all of the top Latin artists that we will be listening to throughout the course of the year during our Popular Music Activities.
A new school year comes with new hopes, new challenges, and new faces. Why start the new year with the same old resources? All of my Spanish resources are 28% off for two days only (August 1st & 2nd). Come check out some of the resources I have been working on this summer and buy yourself some free time in the coming school year.
Taking students on trips abroad is a big responsibility, but many foreign language teachers choose to do it anyway - because we know how beneficial travel is for our students. There is no doubt that first hand experiences with the target culture and language can be very motivating (and potentially life-changing) for students. If you are taking students abroad and expecting a vacation-like experience, you may be disappointed. However, if you approach your trip with a realistic vision and follow these tips, it can increase the chances that you will get as much out of it as your students.
1. Get travel company advice from teachers who have previously hosted trips.
Most teachers who have traveled with students can easily tell you what they like and/or don't like about different student travel companies. Listen with an open mind and choose one whose "cons" you can tolerate. Some travel companies are great but throw you on flights with a million layovers. Others have great flight plans but the hotels leave a bit to be desired. Others have itineraries that leave too much down time, but are more affordable. It all depends on what your expectations are for the trip and your ability to impress those upon your students.
2. If this is your first time, choose an itinerary that is shorter and cost-effective.
Companies like BrightSpark even have 3 day itineraries that focus on Latin culture within the U.S. If you just want to get your feet wet, this might be a convenient way to do it. Other itineraries that make sense for your first time traveling with students are trips to places like Puerto Rico. Your students won't need passports and there is not as much red tape, plus it is still a beautiful country with great target language experience.
3. Hand pick the students that will travel with you.
Many student travel companies require a certain number of student travelers to cover the cost of the teacher/chaperone. If students enroll early, or if you hit a certain number of enrollees, the company may offer you a free trip or other incentive. As a result, sometimes teachers try to get tons and tons of sign ups without really considering that they will be responsible for these students once on the trip. There is nothing worse than being stuck with a kid (or several) that is going to try to be sneaky or irresponsible when out of the country. Unless you plan on not sleeping for a week, there will be times when your students are not being directly supervised by you. You need to trust them to not do anything that will get them (or you) in trouble. No free trip is worth the flack you will take if a kid decides to sneak out and get a tattoo, get drunk, or magically gives birth 9 months after your trip.
4. Take other teachers as chaperones before parents.
When you are recruiting students for trips, many parents will ask about their ability to accompany their children on the trip or help with chaperoning. Generally speaking (and of course this varies from parent to parent), I have found that having other teachers as chaperones is much better than having parents. Many times parents are uncomfortable setting limits for other people's children, where as teachers are used to setting limits with kids on a daily basis. Parents can also be in it more to share the experience with their own child rather than help you with the supervision of the other students on the trip. If you do take parents, sit down with them and find out what they are comfortable with in terms of helping you with these things.
5. Set ground rules.
Most student travel companies have their own rules for students, but that doesn't mean you can't set some of your own. Think about how you will (or will avoid) dealing with the issues of alcohol, curfews, and free time. Will you let students who are 18 drink with parent permission? You don't have to just because the travel company allows it. After a day of activity, will you allow your students to hang out in each other's rooms, or only in common areas? When they have free time, how often must they check in with you? How many people must stick together?
I also like to set some unofficial rules that will make the trip more productive for their language learning and cultural understanding. Here are a few...
1. Do not eat at any restaurant or fast food place that you could go to in the U.S. - no McDonald's, no KFC, no Hard Rock Café, nothing!
2. Try a food that you have never had before at least once a day
3. Go to a grocery store or corner store and buy a snack and/or drink to enjoy in your room at night
4. Make at least one friend (usually there are students from other schools on the same trip with you)
5. Use an ATM in the target language
6. Say please and thank you to everyone (in Spanish of course)
7. Keep your ears open and discover a song that you would like to download to your iPod
8. Watch at least 1 hour of television, in Spanish, daily
What advice do you have for teachers who may be traveling with students? Leave them in the comments below!
"The main function of language is that of communication, and when it comes down to it, we communicate about some things more often than others. This is why when you are trying to help students reach a certain level of proficiency, it is not just the quantity of words they acquire that matters, but the quality. That is to say that some verbs just have more "bang for the buck".
Communication always has a purpose that many times will fit into one of the categories below.
1) The existence of something / someone
2) The identity of something / someone
3) The location of something / someone
4) Who possesses what
5) What someone prefers
6) What someone wants or feels like
7) Where someone is going or has gone
So, if you want to increase your students' ability to do these things, there are certain verbs that will be needed to accomplish each of these communication goals - the "Super Seven".
One would argue that rather than teaching hundreds of verbs through the present tense, it would be more effective to focus on these 7 verbs through many tenses. The task or goal should be what is driving the tense.
Here are some more verbs that are used frequently in Spanish.
So, if you want to move towards a more proficiency-based classroom, but you aren't ready to throw away your grammar books quite yet, this is a good place to start. Narrow your focus and let the task lead the grammar, not the other way around!
Direct grammar instruction has become a no-no in the face of more proficiency-based instruction, but there is still one way to teach grammar that is not frowned upon. Teaching grammar inductively has definitely been on the uprise for a number of reasons. Research has shown that inductive grammar instruction is...
1) More effective, especially for brighter students
2) More engaging for students
3) More interesting for students
4) Easier to retain
This isn't to say that direct grammar instruction does not have its' advantages. It is definitely more time consuming to use an inductive instructional method. Direct instruction also tends to do a better job of dealing with exceptions to the rule, whereas an inductive method is going to help students focus on the big picture basics.
Remember, nothing says that you have to use one method all the time. Some concepts definitely lend themselves better to an inductive approach than others. I certainly encourage you to try both methods with your students and see for yourself which method is more effective for you.
Developing an Inductive Grammar Lesson involves essentially 5 step:
Step 1: Students analyze examples of correct language
This could take the form of phrases, sentences, or a paragraph depending on the level of students you are teaching. The important part is to make sure that you provide plenty of examples of the targeted structure in use in various situations. Don't give examples that show exceptions to the rule at first, those will come later.
Step 2: Students create rules based on their observations
Have your students analyze the examples and try to come up with a rule as to how that particular verb or grammatical structure is used. Do not worry if their rules are not exactly "right". They will have a chance later to amend them. This step is all about the thinking process and focus on correct examples.
Step 3: Students test their rules against more examples
Provide students with additional examples of correct language that includes the targeted structure. They will need to see if their rules hold up against these additional examples. This is a good time to include some examples that go a bit deeper and challenge the most general form of the rule. Look at including examples that represent a less common situation that students may come across.
For example, if you are targeting verbs like gustar and have shown students examples in Step 1 that include the subject liking both singular and plural items, perhaps include some examples in Step 3 that show the subject liking to do an action and multiple actions.
Step 4: Students modify and add to rules as necessary
Ask your students to take a second look at the rules they originally wrote in Step 2. They should change or add to their rules based on the additional examples that you have shown them.
Step 5: Students apply their rules when producing language
Give students some targeted, scaffolded activities in which they can now apply the rules they have developed. This works best in writing, at least at first, until the rules have a chance to be internalized a bit more. This is the point at which, as the teacher, I would step in to correct any misunderstandings that students may have as evidenced by their work on the application exercises.
If you would like to see some examples of what Inductive Grammar Lessons look like, I am currently posting them in my store. You are welcome to look at them for ideas, or pick them up to save yourself some time.
I have been teaching Spanish for the past 15 years in a large Suburban School District.
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