One of my favorite things about hosting a blog for Spanish teachers is all of the other Spanish resource gurus I meet! So, a bunch of us have gotten together to bring you our best, most popular resources of the year! Take a peek and see if they can help you make your New Year a bit less stressful!
Many of my best ideas come to me on my drive home from work. So, I wanted to share a light bulb moment I had one day while attempting to text my husband. I do not like to text and drive, so I frequently use the talk to text feature to send texts while driving. I was trying to text my husband and spoke "What do you want for dinner?" into my phone. I sent the text, and my confused husband responded with "are you okay?". You see, I hadn't noticed that the language on my talk to text was set to Spanish, so as I spoke to my phone in English, my confused phone struggled to recognize what I was saying in SPANISH. Then it dawned on me...most of my students have a phone just like mine right in their pockets, and IT WANTS TO HEAR THEM SPEAK SPANISH!
I realized that the talk to text features on most phones can be used to help students monitor and correct their own pronunciation. If the phone can understand what they are saying, then a Spanish speaker could understand them. So their phone is really like this little native speaker that ready and willing to tell them whether or not they are understandable. If you look at the ACTFL rubrics, you will see that this is an important component of developing speaking skills in the target language.
So how you can you use this in class?
1. Have students say words and phrases to their phone. Then, have them compare what the phone thought they said to what they actually said. Have them repeat again the words that the phone could not understand.
2. Have them do this (#1) for homework and text you the results (I use Google Voice instead of my actual phone number).
3. Have this feature enabled on your phone when students come up for speaking tests or presentations. You will be able to concentrate on the content of what they are saying and your phone will leave you a record of their pronunciation that you can quickly look back at.
4. Do you have IEP students or other students that need to see and hear the language at the same time? When you are speaking the target language to the class, let them activate talk to text in Spanish on their phone. They will be able to hear and see the words at the same time.
5. Found a great video to show in the target language but it doesn't have subtitles? Have students make their own with talk to text so that they can read the Spanish as they watch.
What are some other ways you can think of that cell phones can be used to help students learn Spanish (instead of just translate it)?
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.
For language teachers, this strategy is the BIG ONE. Wait...it says NONlinguistic representations, so how can that be so important to teachers of linguistics? Well, the reason this one is key in the second language classroom is because using nonlinguistic representations essentially allows you to remove spoken and written language from your classroom. Of course, the language we want to remove here is English (or whatever the first language may be). This is the KEY to everything we hear about creating comprehensible input, immersive settings, and remaining in the target language. Especially for beginning level classes where they know so little of the second language, nonlinguistic representations are the most effective way to fill in the gaps. So let's talk about some different kinds of nonlinguistic representations and how you can use them.
1. TPR (Total Physical Response)
While this method of teaching is not for everyone, some elements can be used successfully in any classroom. TPR is a type of non-linguistic representation that involves the use gestures to communicate the meanings of words and phrases without actually using the words. It looks a lot like charades, but the gestures are consistent and attached to specific target language words.
I am NOT a TPR teacher, but I have certain hand gestures that I use consistently to avoid speaking English. You can also encourage your students to use gestures when they can't think of a word in Spanish. The gesture is better than the English word because gestures are universally understood and a non-linguistic form of communication.
Sketching can be used in much the same way as those translation exercises once were. If you want to check reading comprehension, for example, having students sketch what they understand can be a great way to see what they are getting out of it. You can see both what students included in their sketch AND what they left out. Both of these are important and worthy of attention. This also allows you to go back and squeeze more information out of your students by asking them to add DETAIL to their sketches.
3. Symbols / Icons
The consistent use of symbols are icons to represent words has been one of the most important turning points in my instruction. For every word my students learn, I assign that word an icon. I cement that icon in their brains WITH the word and I NEVER let them see the English word. This has increased vocabulary retention so much in my classroom. Our brains remember pictures much better than a word, especially when that picture has meaning. The icons I use are kept consistent throughout all the different levels, on every assessment, and in every activity. Repeated viewing of the icon accompanied with the Spanish word has been a crucial step towards my increased use of the target language with students.
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.
I have been teaching Spanish for the past 15 years in a large Suburban School District.
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