Sunday, November 5, 2017

CopyCAT: My New Favorite Brain Break

Last week I discovered a new brain break by accident and it has quickly become my favorite brain break. I like it because it gets EVERYONE moving, multiple times, and the students have an opportunity to take ownership in the brain break by adding their own personal touch to it.

This brain break is so simple and quick that you'll wonder why you didn't think of it before. (*

(My name for it.)

1. All students and teacher stand up.

2. Teacher decides on which order the students will participate and informs students of the order. The purpose for choosing an order is so the activity moves smoothly, which makes it more fun.
(In my class, there are two semi-circles so I started with the student in the back semi-circle on the left hand side of my class and the students went in order until the end of that semi-circle and then the student in the front semi-circle on the right hand side of the class continued, so it made a complete "circle".) 

3. The first person does an action and then the entire class repeats it in unison. The next person does an action and the rest of the class repeats it in unison. The third person does an action and the rest of the class repeats it in unison.

That's it - easy, peasy. It will take no more than 2 minutes; probably less than 1 minute, but it will energize the kids and give their brains a break.

- clap your hands 2x
- snap fingers 1x, clap hands 1x, snap fingers 1x
- jump 2x
- spin in a circle
- make a popping noise with mouth
- pat legs with hand 2x; snap 2x
- the genie nod
- clap hands 1x over your head
- cross arms and tap shoulders 2x
basically any motion that the students think of

If I remember, I'll ask one of my classes if I can videotape it and then add the clip here. 

*As far as I know, this idea is not one that I heard from someone or read on a blog; it simply came to me right at the moment that I told students to stand up for a different brain break that I had planned (read about the original brain break plan at the end of the post). When the idea came to me, I dropped my original plan and went with it. Before I wrote this post, I searched to see if maybe I had read it online and that's why the idea came to me but I did not find it anywhere.  

What I DID find, are many posts from World Language teachers about brain breaks from the last four years. Obviously, many teachers have discovered the benefits of brain breaks, for the students AND for the teacher, and want to share their experiences with others. 

For loads of FREE brain breaks activities, click on the links below. (I noticed that there are some vendors on TPT that are selling brain break materials, but seriously, the bloggers listed below are freely sharing lists of brain break activities which means you can spend your money on other materials needed for the classroom.)

- An OWL Adventure -  Nonverbal Activities (August 2014)
- Martina Bex - 20 Brain Breaks  (August 2014)
- Maris Hawkins - 12 Brain Breaks (August 2015)
- Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell - Musicuetos - 7 Brain Breaks   (October 2015)
- Secondary Spanish Space - 10, 5-Minute Brain Breaks (January 2017)
- La Maestra Loca - MANY posts on Brain Breaks (August 2016 thru Sept 2017)

And..check Mis Clases Locas blog for links to some additional Brain Break posts that may not be included in the above list.

My original planned brain break:
My planned brain break that was replaced by the CopyCAT, is also fun for the students, but it requires a little more coordination. For this brain break, I do not know if this one has a name either, I started with a simple beat - clap 3 times and pause for 1 beat.
clap - clap - clap - rest
Then I called a students' name and that student had to add a new sound/action to the existing rhythm. 
clap - clap - clap - chi (sound that fell on the 4th beat)
Continue to call on other students to add sounds/actions to the current rhythm. 
Before calling on new students, give everyone a chance to fall into the rhythm with the new addition. 

It can get tricky and challenging. My classes made it to 4 or 5 new additions before we started losing students, or me, because it required more concentration. Why not give it a try?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ideas on Reading "La Casa de la Dentista"

It won't be long until the arrival of Sr. Wooly's long anticipated 2nd graphic novel, "La Casa de la Dentista " arrives at schools throughout the United States.   

In October, I received an advanced hard bound copy of the book and immediately knew how I was going to use the book with several of my classes, and, of course, it involved food. My friends know that I enjoy baking and bringing treats to my students that are related to what we are reading or learning about in class (such as this Billy la Bufanda cake) or having the students cook in class (see this post). So I searched online, found a tooth-shaped cookie cutter, and started planning the special day.

Below I listed a few things I did to make the reading of Sr. Wooly's La Casa de la Dentista even more engaging and memorable for the students. 

1. Tooth-shaped cookies. I ordered the cookie-cutter from Amazon.

2. Baking. I baked plenty of tooth-shaped sugar cookies. 

3. Decorating the cookies. I decorated the cookies and quickly found out my talents do NOT lie in decorating. I ended up with cookie that looked like a teeth that were delicious, but not "cute".  

4. Reading the book. After students had their snack(s) ready, I read the book to them, in the same way I used to read books to my children when they were young. For this book, anytime there was a possible sound effect to match the illustrations, I included those noises: voices for the characters, whispering, buzzing of a dentist drill, water splashing, buzz of overhead lights, sighs, etc.   

I knew my storytelling method was a hit when the students started adding their own sound effects without any prompting:  "clic" sounds for the teacher's powerpoint, rodents scattering, footsteps. The best sounds were their reactions - gasps, "ohhh", "don't do it", and more. At one point, I looked up and a student with her hand covering her mouth and big eyes, and the guy beside her had his hands on either side of his mouth and mouth opened, jaw dropped.  

We have 70 minute classes and it took most of the class period to read. As I said in an earlier post about this book, it is NOT meant to be read in a hurry.

I know your students will love it. You can see by the smiles on everyone's face, that it was an enjoyable day - listening to an engaging, unpredictable, story written in SPANISH. Have fun!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Review of Sr. Wooly's "La Casa de la Dentista"

If you are counting the days until you receive your order of Sr. Wooly's graphic novel "La Casa de la Dentista" than you know that the wait is almost over. It's been months since Sr. Wooly leaked information that he was working hard, day and night, (insert mad scientist music and an evil laugh here) on his second graphic novel. It is related to his cult-favorite music video "La Dentista" released in 2011, but it isn't necessary to have seen the video to understand the book. I guarantee you that every minute of that wait will be worth it

I was one of the lucky ones granted the opportunity to read the novel before the official release. I strongly recommend this book for Spanish teachers that are searching for engaging reading materials for their students! I promise you that you are in for a treat, perhaps a little unsettling and disturbing, in true Sr. Wooly fashion (and you know you wouldn't want it any other way). Your students won't know what hit them!

I haven't seen the digital teacher's guide for the book, but I have some advice on how to read this book.

In my opinion, the most important thing to keep in mind is: this book is not meant to merely be read. It is meant to be FELTWhen reading, you have to FEEL...what the characters are feeling; FEEL...their fear; FEEL...the intensity; FEEL...the tension and FEEL...the uncertainty that surrounds them. 

Feel their FEAR. 
How do you do that?  Read it slowly!
That's worth repeating: 
READ it S-L-O-W-L-Y!  

Look at every.single.frame. 
Look in the characters' eyes to sense what they are feeling. 
Look at the intricate details and the coloring of every illustration. 
Don't cheat yourself from fully experiencing this novel. Don't give in to the temptation to read it quickly to see what happens. Don't do it. Don't rush. Take your time. Soak up every detail and every word and get the full effect. Connect to the characters. Put yourself in their shoes. Stare directly at the danger from their viewpoint and FEEL IT!

Seriously, the only thing that can make this great book even better, is how you read it.
The one & only, La Dentista

I currently have one hardbound copy. I'm going to read the book to my students a few days before Halloween, with the use of my document camera, and I'm going to read it to them exactly the same way I read it to myself - slowly and OUT LOUD. When there were illustrations without words, I added sound effects - gasps, breathing, the sound of waves splashing, sighs, footsteps, the buzz from electric lights, background music, and so much more. 

When there was dialogue, I read it OUT LOUD with emotion and in a voice to match the words and the expressions on the character's faces. There's even a part where the teacher sings to her school students, and you know what? I sang those words, making up my own little melody. All those extra sounds and pacing when reading, pulled me deeper into Sr. Wooly's little nightmare of a book.   

Carolina's dad nagging her, again.
You may be itching for some hints about what happens. Unfortunately, I can't help you out with that. I refuse to take any punch away from the story by giving out plot twists. But, if you picked up one of Sr. Wooly's preview editions that he was handing out at summer conferences, then you already know about the first several pages. The story begins with a young girl named Carolina whose parents are constantly nagging her to brush her teeth. The first three pages are illustrations only, no dialogue. You may have to use your imagination for the first few pages, but then the dialogue begins when the family is gathered at breakfast time. If you have an active imagination, you'll almost "hear" the eye-rolling by Carolina and her dad in reaction to the mother's drama. Then there's a phone call and from that point on, you'll be hooked. The story, the artwork, the coloring, and the lettering will reel you in. Don't bother trying to guess what happens, other than expect the unexpected.

I almost envy you because I want to be able to read it again for the FIRST TIME.   
So ENJOY IT! Both YOU and your students, will devour this book in no time! I predict it will be popular with your students for generations to come!

Do you want to hear some cool facts about the collaboration on an international level that went into this graphic novel? The contributors are from five countries on three different continents. Where they reside, their name, and their contributions are:

Illinois, USA: Jim Wooldridge (or Sr. Wooly as many know him) wrote the book
Colombia: Juan Carlos Pinilla illustrated the story  
Brazil: Davi Comodo did the coloring of the illustrations  
Argentina: Lucas Gattoni did the lettering
Spain: Lara Talens edited the book
Check out the artwork & coloring. Superb!

Obviously, Sr. Wooly sought out the best talent which resulted in a masterpiece. As Hunter S. Thompson said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right" and this graphic novel is done right!

A few extra notes: 
- It is recommended for 6th grade and up.
- It's available as a hardbound book or paperback 
- *A digital teacher guide is available
- It is in pre-order and will ship in November.
- *If you're not sure how to teach a GRAPHIC novel with your students, Sr. Wooly and Carrie Toth made video tutorials on how to teach his first graphic novel "Billy y las Botas". Carrie does an awesome job, but then I may be a bit biased :)
I linked Sr. Wooly's website throughout the blog post. Click on any of the links on the words "Sr. Wooly". 

*I'm sure my plans on how I'm going to read this to my students don't match up with what the teacher guide or the video tutorials suggest, because I am going to read it in ONE class period. It will be a special class period devoted to storytelling and the only thing my students will have to do, is listen to the story.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Healthy Meal

This post has absolutely NOTHING to do with teaching a language. Well, maybe I can find a connection to education: it's nice to look forward to this meal at the end of a teaching day. But nonetheless, it's a recipe for a great meal that's too good not to share with others and I don't have a food blog so I'm making a tiny exception and posting it here.

It is a copycat recipe for Fit Fare® Veggie Skillet from Denny's restaurant. I found a copycat recipe online and experimented and altered it until I found the right combination for my family. Then I added a shortcut to the recipe because, after a work day, who doesn't want a shortcut in meal prep?    

This is what makes this meal great:
1) It doesn't contain any hard to find or expensive ingredients. In fact, those of you that have home gardens will find most of the ingredients there. 

2) It's easy to prepare: basically cutting vegetables and stir frying them. 

3) It's healthy - veggies, a few potatoes (live a little), and egg whites.

4) It 's eye appealing - love those colorful vegetables. (I promise that I will take a photo of this meal the next time I made it, if...I remember.)

After a day of teaching, if you want to treat yourself to something delicious and healthy, give this recipe a try. 

A few notes:

1. I make this meal for 3 people, plus I want to have enough leftover for my school lunch the following day. I double the potatoes and add a little bit more of each ingredient.

2. I do not dish it out onto different plates. I serve it straight from the heated frypan so it stays warm longer. 

3. You can make this recipe even easier by cutting the vegetables the day before or in the morning before leaving for work, and/or microwaving the potatoes ahead of time. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Play-Doh in the WL Classroom; First Day Activities

Love those smiles!
When students come back to school after a long summer vacation, they, like the teachers, are adjusting to the new norm of school hours: waking up early, classes, quizzes and grades, sports practices, etc. However, those summer memories are still fresh in their minds and they don't want to let them fade away.

Perfect! They want to keep their summer memories vivid by talking about them and I want to encourage those conversations in the target language. 

As I chatted in Spanish with my Sp4+ students on our first day back to school, I held a plastic bag of Play-Doh behind my back. I wanted to reach into the bag behind my back and, ta-dah, produce a colorful container of Play-Doh to get a reaction from the students. Instead, my bag twisted and I struggled to pull out the Play-Doh. The suspense built and the students started guessing the contents in the bag, including guesses on what food it might be. (They know me well.)   

When I eventually managed to pull out the Play-Doh, I instructed them to create something that represented what they did over the summer. 

After students completed their sculptures, they took turns telling the class what they did. I built on what they said with follow-up questions to both the student and others in the class.

What a playful way to ease back into Spanish class! It was fun, it allowed students to revisit their childhood by creating with Play-Doh, and best of all, we learned about each other using the target language. 
More Play-Doh creations by Ephrata students

Play-Doh on Day One is a staple activity for my Spanish 4+ classes. I keep a bag of Play-Doh containers in my classroom cabinet. When I see a sale on Play-Doh, I add it to my stash so it's stocked and ready for Day One. My Spanish 4 classes have their photo activity for Day One and in Spanish 2, we start with students sketching 3 things on card stock or construction paper: what they like to do, what their favorite class was last year, and either their favorite vacation or anything else they wanted to chat about. 

Fun class for students; fun DAY for me. 

The photo on the right are Play-Doh creations by Señor Cerullo's students that he shared on Twitter.   


Friday, July 21, 2017

Step Forward, Step Backward

More than a month remains until my classroom will be filled with students, but I am already creating plans for those first few days (not on paper yet, but certainly have ideas in my head that I'll eventually transfer to paper). 

One activity that I will do with my students in the first week that is a get-to-know each other type of activity, but not the usual such as "find someone that..." fill in the type bingo grid. This activity is more student and class friendly in that all the students are reacting to what the teacher says and simultaneously learning about their classmates.

It's called Step Forward, Step Backward (or as I used to call it Forward/Backward). It can be used at the beginning of the school year, after a new semester, after a weekend or special event at school, before a holiday when the students find it harder to sit still, or anytime you want to provide input and build class community. The small prep work done by the teacher is contrasted by the high engagement level by the students. Step Forward, Step Backward is an activity that can be done with any level of language students as long as the teacher carefully chooses the vocabulary to keep it comprehensible for students' language abilities. This activity can also work as a Brain Break.

Overview: Students listen to a statement read by the teacher and step forward or step backward according to the directions. The teacher uses PQA (personalized questions and answers) to connect to the students and to provide additional comprehensible input.

Prep work:
1. The teacher writes several statements in the target language. 

2. The teacher assigns the number of steps that students will take forward or backward if the statement is true about them.

In class:
1. There are several ways to set up the activity depending on your room space. I have a desk-less classroom so students only need to push their chairs out of the way to do the activity. If you have desks in your classroom, it may be easier to go to the cafeteria or to an area in your school that has a lot of space, or...take the students outside. Another option if you have a lot of room in your class is for students to form a circle facing inward.

2. Students line up, shoulder to shoulder, facing the front of the room.

3. The teacher reads a statement and the students move forward or backward as instructed by the teacher.

Here are a few examples: (remember, it should be the target language)

a. Statements about pets:
   - If you have a cat, take one step forward.
   - If you have two or more cats, take an additional step forward.
   - If you have a dog, take one step backward.
   - If your dog is white, take one step backward.
   - If you don't have any pets, take two steps forward.
   - If you have a turtle, snake, or hamster as a pet, take 3 steps forward.

b. Statements about food:
   - If you like pizza take one step forward.
   - If you like broccoli, take two steps forward.
   - If you like Chinese food better than Mexican food, take one step forwards.
   - If you eat cereal for breakfast one or more days each week take one step

c. Statements about sports:
   - If you play soccer...
   - If you like to run...
   - If you play golf more often than you swim...
   - If you like to watch sports more than you like to play sports...

d. Statements about restaurants:
   - If you prefer Burger King over McDonald's...
   - If you have eaten at In-and-Out in the last 2 years...
   - If you work at a restaurant...

e. Statements about school:
   - If you have biology before this class...
   - If you don't have physical education this semester...
   - If you have an art class this year...
   - If you are a senior, step...
   - If you have a quiz or test today...

f. Statements about clothes:
   - If you are wearing sneakers today...
   - If you are wearing the color red today...
   - If you are not wearing socks today...
   - If you wore a hat this morning before school...
   - If you work at a clothing store...

As you become more acquainted with the students throughout the school year, you can make the statements more interesting by writing statements that relate to your specific students and school culture. 

After each statement, the teacher has an opportunity to expand on the information that was revealed by the students' movements.  As students move in response to the statements, they immediately see what they have in common with their classmates and interesting information about their classmates that they did not know.

- Every statement tells students to step forward.
- All the statements tell the students to step forward, BUT roll a dice and if it lands on 4, then every 4 questions the students will step backward if the statement is true for them. If it is a 3, every 3rd question the students step backward if the statement is true for them.
- Say the statement and ask the students to raise their hand if it is true for them. Then flip a coin to determine if the students step forward one step or if the students step backward one step.   
- and other variations that will keep the activity new

There doesn't have to be a "winner", but if your students will like that variation, go for it, and adjust the directions accordingly.

Have fun!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Resources and Links for Movie Talks Resources

For those attending the iFLT 2017 conference that were at my presentation, Movie Talk, Beyond the Basics, I have attached the link below to a document that has the links to the movies I discussed and to resources of where you can find videos for Movie Talk.

 Resource Document

Pre-conference Professional Development at iFLT2017

It's July and you know what that means: it's time for meaningful professional development at iFLT! I'm writing this from Denver, Colorado, where 500+ language teachers will converge on Tuesday to kick off the first official day of iFLT. 

My first day of iFLT started on Monday because I am serving as a coach this year.    

Coaching 4 Coaches workshop
Teri Weichart conducted a Coaches 4 Coaches session on Monday to train the coaches and
attendees that signed up for an extra session on coaching, before the start of the conference. After hugs and greetings to other members of our Coaching Tribe, we got down to business. 
Teri put 5 white poster sheets around the room and we wrote a skill on each of the posters. Later, in small groups, we discussed each poster. Below are several answers that stood out to my group that are beyond what you may normally think one would answer. 

1. Comprehensibility
Students may not recognize cognates they hear until they see them written. Don't assume the students understand you when you are using cognates.

2. Keeping Things Interesting
- vary energy and voice level
- go "off rails" to follow student interest
- pause to add suspense
- always give students a choice (Ex: Do you want to discuss in groups of 2 or as a whole class?)

3. Storytelling Skills
- "If it doesn't flow, let it go" - if you are telling a story and you realize it isn't interesting and not working with the students, drop it and move on. Give yourself permission to "let it go".

4. Connecting to Students
- Recognize what each individual student's engagement looks like. One student is engaged when they look directly at you, while another may be as engaged but he is looking down. Student engagement looks different for different students.

5. Other
- incorporate music, brain breaks, and CI games
- Be present in the present (show up to class in the present, not focused on the past)
- Encourage students and build up their confidence
- Accept that students' skills are where they are, not where you want them to be

Coaching Teacher SkillsLaurie Clarcq played the role of coach when Kirstin Plante taught the teacher "students" Dutch. Both of them were amazing: Kirstin on making the language comprehensible by going slowly, using gestures, writing the words in both languages in two different colors, engaging the "students", pausing and pointing at the words, expressive, etc; and Laurie with her gentle and encouraging method of providing feedback to Kirstin. (Btw, if you see Kirstin, ask her to demonstrate her version of a giraffe walking to the store.)

Then we returned to our small groups and took turns playing the roles of teacher, coach, student, and observer in the coaching format. Each role is a powerful learning experience and helped prepare us as coaches for the attendees that will visit the coaching rooms in the next few days.

Stephen Krashen talked to participants in the Fluency Fast classes and others about the power of reading and its role in language acquisition.

After the training and the Krashen talk, I'm ready for iFLT to officially start!!!

Personalizing experiences before and after conference hours

I've attended many conferences throughout the last few years in which I failed to schedule time to actually see the city and surrounding area in which the conference was held. But this year, I arrived in Denver before 9:00 am on Sunday, and spent the day with the talented Nelly Hughes (Spanish teacher from Ohio) and her family hiking at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The park is beautiful with spectacular views. Of course, my conversations with Nelly were often related to teaching. 

At the end of the day, I bumped into friends from Pinellas School District in Florida and we went to a local restaurant, Casa Bonita, where the food was ok but the conversation was GREAT!

Suggestion: If you are able to extend your stay at a conference a day or two before or after the actual conference, DO IT.  You never know when you'll be in that city again so make the most of your time and financial of attending the conference by setting aside time to explore the area.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sub Plans that keep the CI Flowing

One of my least favorite tasks as a teacher is to write substitute plans. I can take the easy way out and have the students watch a movie. Movies have a variety of value: there are movies in the target language that students don't understand, movies in the target language with English subtitles, and movies that are in English but are culturally rich. 

What other options are available? What will keep the CI flowing even when the substitute doesn't speak the language you teach? 

Why not have a Spanish teacher in another part of the United States be your sub? Wait...What? Thanks to teachers that are recording themselves telling stories in the target language and making a concerted effort to keep the information comprehensible, language teachers now have another option for substitute plans. Use the videos of other language teachers telling stories that are on YouTube and Vimeo videos, and voila, that teacher can be your substitute for the day!

As more teachers are sharing their recordings online, I have been replacing old substitute plans with the new ones. Below are a few examples of how to write substitute lesson plans that will keep the CI flowing during your absence. The examples are of Spanish, but you can use the ideas for any language as long as you can find videos in your language.

1. Mike Peto!  @mike_peto on Twitter
Have you seen Mike Peto's videos on Vimeo?  If not, click HERE for his Vimeo account page for a list of his videos. In the videos he tells fables or stories that he wrote using high frequency words. He uses any tense that is needed to tell the story, but no worries - he is a genius at making it comprehensible and he uses his /or actions in the story.  At times, he writes the Spanish word and its English translation on the board.  Some of his videos he recorded during the actual lesson with students, so you can observe his comprehension checks with the students. There are other videos that Mike made without any students in class because he made them specifically for an absence this month.

The story I chose for my substitute plans on Monday (I will be attending my daughter's graduation to see her get her doctorate in physical therapy - yeah! - proud mom here) is "El cuervo tonto".   

First, my sub will hand out a paper with questions (see page 1 of 2 below) so students can read the questions to give them a heads up on the specifics they need to listen for. 

Then my sub will play the video and pause it when Mike instructs the students to sketch each part of the video. Students will answer the short questions during the story and complete the English translations as Mike explains them.
I need to add that I don't always have questions for the students to answer. Two weeks ago I was out and my students watched Mike's video "la señora" and their only task was to listen to the story because we were going to discuss it the following day. When I returned the next day, I drew the same sketches as Mike did and paused throughout to ask students questions about the characters and what happened. So...questions are not necessary, but for some students it helps to keep them focused on the story.

Click HERE if you would like to download the pdf of the questions for the "El cuervo tonto" story - 2 pages of questions/area to sketch and the answer sheets.

2. Pablo Román, @langdreamer on Twitter
Pablo is cranking out videos about Spanish festivals and holidays,  legends, and most recently, interviews with other Spanish speakers at the rate of almost one a day. Click HERE for his YouTube channel and check out his blog, Dreaming Languages

In the videos, Pablo is in the bottom corner and the rest of the screen he uses to sketch while he speaks to the listener. At times he inserts video clips to show a few seconds of an event that he is describing.

Below is a sample of how to add reading after viewing a video. This is based on his video "St. Jordi". I used this video on a day when I was NOT absent, but with the paper attached below, you could leave it as a sub plan.

1. Watch the video. I paused the video at the end where you can see all of the sketches, and the students and I discussed and retold the story. If this is your sub plan, skip the retell until the day you return.

2. Distribute the paper and students will match the sentences to the screenshots of the sketches.

3. Distribute the script below for the students to read.

The documents for this lesson are HERE
(To be clear, these lessons were NOT planned in collaboration with anyone, but rather I saw the videos online and then created lessons from the online videos that I can use in class.)

3. Cameron Taylor @Profe_Taylor
Cameron is a Spanish teacher in Japan. His YouTube channel is HERE and his most recent (I think) video is "Habla demasiado". His technique is very similar to Mike Peto's, in that he tells a story and makes it comprehensible due to the vocabulary he chooses and the sketches. Please note that Cameron's purpose of making the videos was to share with others HOW he does "storytelling" with his students. It is was not shared with the intent to have other teachers use it for sub plans, but I quickly saw the possibilities in providing CI for a substitute plan with this, and other of his, videos.

I do not have a specific document created for the story "Habla demasiado", but my students will read the story script after watching the story.

Two variation on the story scripts (the written text)
a. Omit a few details of the story in the script on a document you create and replace it with lines. Then together as a class, you can fill in the missing information and write it on the lines on the document.

b. Ten Errors (or however many you choose). When you write the script, make 10 minor changes to the details. After the students have watched the video and after you have discussed it or acted it out, distribute the document with the 10 errors. The students' task is to find the erroneous information and replace it with the correct information. (i.e. - if the story said he had two dogs, change it to 3 dogs or to 2 cats.)

4. BookBox
BookBox is a website with children's stories in the target language with subtitles. It has many books for Spanish, as well as a few stories for other languages such as French, Italian, Urdu, and more. This website also provides PDFs for you to download. 

I made a very basic story listening document with questions for my students to complete while listening and watching the story online.  (The screenshot does not show the entire document. If you would like the document, click HERE.)

OPTION: Instead of having students answer questions, the students could listen to the story one time. As they listen/watch it the second time, have them sketch the story that you can use as a retell using a document camera later in the class or on another day.

These generous teachers, and the Bookbox website, are my new go-to lesson plans for substitute teachers.  Feel free to download any of the documents that may be useful to you. They are available at no cost. HOWEVER, what I would like to ask in return, is if you like these options and create something to be used with a video similar to the story videos above, please share it with me.   :-)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Question Passwords - Individualized and with a little Extra Brain "Muscle"

I have known about passwords for some time thanks to Alina Filipescu for blogging about using passwords with her students (read her blog post here) and to Bryce Hedstrom, who shared his experiences with passwords at conference sessions and also blogged about it here . On both blog posts, you will find an explanation of how Alina and Bryce use the passwords, as well as videos, lists of passwords, and advantages to using passwords. Because of their sharing their experiences, there are currently many language teachers that have followed their example and are using passwords to greet their students every day.  

I have to admit that after I heard about the password idea, I hesitated to use it because I wasn't convinced that the students or I would like it. But then my colleague next door, (and by next door I mean we are on the same side of the hallway with 3 feet that separates our classroom doors), Krista Kovalchick, who teaches Latin and French, started using passwords with her students. When I saw how successful it was and how much the students liked it, I was motivated to try it with my students.

I started the passwords several weeks into the second semester this year (the end of February) and I am glad I finally decided to implement them. A few weeks ago, I wanted to mix things up a bit, so instead of a password, or a phrase, I wrote a question on a mini whiteboard for students to answer before entering the classroom, and have continued this variation.

Why do I write it on a mini whiteboard instead of individually asking the students? It has to do with a time constraint. The questions require individualized answers and not simply to repeat what the previous person has said. They need time to think of the best answer for them. Also, with the question on the mini whiteboard, the students that are waiting in line, can see the question and can begin to decide on their answer. 

Even a question as basic as ¿Qué no te gusta comer? (What do you not like to eat?) requires students to decide which food is their least favorite food, or if they don't know how to say the answer in Spanish, they have to decide if they want to name another food for an easy answer or ask my how to say the food in Spanish. I used this question last week and I had several students that said they like everything...until I mentioned insectos, culebras, flores, lodo,... but that takes to consider my suggestions and respond. When the bell rang, there were several students still lined up in the hallway. We have a very supportive administration team at our high school, and if they were in the hall and several students were not yet in the classroom when the bell rang because they were responding to my question in the target language, I believe they would quickly see the value of the passwords and question passwords, and it wouldn't be a problem. However, if that's not the case at your school, the extra time is something you will need to consider before using question passwords

Advantages of using passwords and question passwords.
I enjoy the passwords for the same reasons that Bryce Hedstrom mentioned in his post, but there are some additional advantages with the question passwords. One is that I am able to not only personally greet each student each day, but I am able to personally connect with them and learn more about them. When one student answers in the same manner as another student I comment to him that "Johnny" also said that. That helps the students to feel connected to others in their class knowing they have things in common of which they were not aware before.

Before using passwords, I greeted the students at the door, but passwords (in my opinion) adds some depth to those greetings.

Another plus is it gives me an opportunity to recycle vocabulary previously used in class. For example, I knew we had a conversation with one class in which we mentioned "lodo" so that is the reason I listed that as a possible thing that the students don't like to eat. 

If you have not experimented with passwords yet, I encourage you to read Alina and Bryce's blog post for their insights on using passwords and for a list of passwords they recommend. Then give it a try, or, finish out this school year and save it for the new school year! I suspect you'll have the same positive reaction from the students that I have had.

Monday, April 24, 2017

French Resources for The Vampire and the Dentist

Revisiting a blog post from January 2013
PLNs are the BEST! Today Elisabeth Hayles contacted me and shared the documents that she made to use in her French classes based on the short film of the Dentist and the Vampire. (See my original blog on this video from January 2013 HERE. As you can see in the title on the right it was so long ago that I titled the post "short films" instead of what it is now referred to as "MovieTalk".) The best part is that Elisabeth is graciously permitting me to share her documents and her Quizlet activity with all of YOU
Thank you, Elisabeth!!!

And...before I share the links for her materials, you must, must, must check out her blog Mme Hayles and the TPRS Experiment. She's been blogging since 2009, not many world language bloggers can say that. She shares her activities for French class, her students' progress, insights on her own journey, and her takeaways from conferences that she has attended. 

Elisabeth Hayles' FRENCH shared resources:
The first link is to her embedded readings for Le Vampire et la dentiste

The second like is to her activity on Quizlet with the vocabulary for Le Vampire et la dentiste. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Crossword Train

I can personally testify to the power of reading when acquiring a second language. Because of that personal experience, I make every effort to find ways to "sneak" additional reading into my lessons.

Today I tested out one of my last-minute ideas with my students. (Seriously, why do my inspirations happen when there are precious few minutes before class starts? I think my procrastination has crept into my inspiration.) 

The name: I'm calling it "The Crossword Train", for lack of a better name. 

The purpose: It requires students to read clues, in the target language, in order to complete their crossword puzzle. about a story, a news article, a few chapters in a book, etc. which they have previously read. 

Prep work: 
1 - Create a crossword puzzle related to material the students have read in the Target Language. The material can be a news article, a class story or parallel story, a legend, a few chapters of a book, etc. One of my favorite free, online crossword puzzle makers is Armored Penguin

2 - Create a pdf of the crossword puzzle and an answer sheet. If the print is small, enlarge the clues and the crossword puzzle when you make copies so students are not straining to see small print. (This can be done on the copier, but I find it quicker to take a screen shot of the crossword puzzle only and a screen shot of the clues, and then print the screen shots.)

3 - For each crossword puzzle you copy, make two copies of the clues. Tape or staple the enlarged crossword puzzle to the clues, and leave the second copy of the clues as is.

How to play:
1. Students work in teams of 3. (Ideas on how to change this for groups of 4 or more are at the end of the post.) Students arrange their chairs so student A is the line leader; student B is seated behind student A, and student C is seated behind student B. (see diagram at beginning of post)

2. Student A has the crossword puzzle AND clues. Student B has the clues only. Student C has nothing.

3. The teacher is the timer, or if there is a student that wants this job, by all means, let them help you!

4. Choose an interval of time; I used 30 seconds but it can be longer, depending on the difficulty of the clues.

5. Start the time. Student #1 reads the clues and is permitted to write the answer to ONLY 1 of the crossword clues. While student A is doing this, student B is reading the paper with the clues only so when the time is up, he is prepared to write an answer on the crossword puzzle when it is passed to him. Student C is taking a 30-second break. (Hey - we all need a breather from time to time and 30 seconds goes by quickly.)

6. At the end of the designated time, student B passes the clues only back to student C so student C can begin reading the clues and preparing to fill in the crossword puzzle when it is handed to him. Student A passes the crossword and clues to student B. Student B now has 30 seconds to fill in the answer of ONE of the clues. 

7. Play continues until the teacher ends the activity or until one of the teams completes the entire crossword puzzle. I opted for the first choice.

So what did this activity accomplish?
- The students read in the target language.
- It was a review of the material we had previously read.
- Helps the teacher to quickly see if students understood the reading - both on the crossword clues and the original text.
- It required teamwork (building classroom communities) to complete the crossword puzzle.
- It was a novel way to do something that's been around for ages. In other words, mixing it up and providing the "novelty" that, as Carol Gaab says, "Brains crave novelty".

Optional ways to play:
- Instead of having one student taking a break, cut the crossword puzzle clues
apart - one paper with the horizontal clues, the other for the vertical clues. 
- Students play in groups of 4. Instead of one larger crossword puzzle, make 2 smaller crossword puzzles. Put the chairs in a circle but not facing inward. Two students have the clues only while 2 students have the two separate crossword puzzles.
- Give each student a different colored marker or pencil to easily see which students answered which clues.

La Virgen de Guadalupe
I used Bryce Hedstrom's document on La Virgen de Guadalupe for this activity. You can find the free document (thank you Bryce) HERE. Click on his name in the previous sentence to find his website and a pile of free materials as well as other interesting reads. 

For additional lesson ideas related to La Virgen de Guadalupe, check out this post from December 2015. 

Click HERE (crossword) and HERE (clues) for the documents I used in class. There are some clues that I want to change for the next time I do this activity (in the fall); a byproduct of typing the clues at the last minute.