Friday, August 21, 2015

Citas rapidas - Hablamos

Getting students to talk (in the target language) is a challenge in all Foreign Language classes.  There are many different tricks to get them speaking, and I love hearing about them from other teachers.  My favorite go-to trick is "Citas rapidas" which is basically speed dating.

This is an easy activity with very little prep and a huge payoff of speaking time.  Before we start, I often give the students an "entrevista" (interview) worksheet to fill out.  While they are speaking, they will be responsible for finding out certain information about the people they are talking to.  Some times I use a worksheet that lists what they need to find out and other times I use a worksheet that has them write down information about themselves.  This works really well with mock facebook profile pages as well!  (This is another activity I do that I'll blog about soon).

I divide the class in half and rearrange the desks so that they are in two lines facing each other.  Then one line of students are assigned to stay in their spots and the other is assigned to move every time they hear the buzzer (or squeak or any other noise that I might have ready to get their attention).  Sometimes I even set an online timer projected on the board so that students know how much time they have (Here is one I like to use.)  Other times I randomly decide when time is up so that they are encouraged to keep talking without knowing when the end will be.  Students speak with the student across from them, asking and answering questions to find out the information they need and then when the buzzer chimes, they rotating group move over one seat and the conversation starts again with a new partner.

The trick to this is to constantly be listening and moving from pair to pair to make sure that the students are having an actual conversation of back and forth questions and answers and not just listing off a check list of facts for the other person to copy down on their worksheet.  The point is NOT to micro-manage the conversations.  I don't correct grammar or other aspects of language use.  The key is communication, and if both students understand what is going on and are sharing the facts they need to, then the task is a success.

My favorite part about this method is that they repeat the same information over and over again with each new partner.  By the end, they have re-used the same conversation methods and the same vocabulary multiple times and it more likely that they will remember it and feel comfortable in a similar conversation in the future.

How do you get kids talking in your classes?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Presidential Lesson Plans

In the middle of a tight Presidential race, my Spanish 4 classes are learning about our own national culture and politics in Spanish class instead of those of Spanish-speaking nations. 

Usually political and cultural lessons in my classes focus on Spain and countries in Central and South America, but as I tell my students, the United States is a large part of the Spanish-speaking world with a large percentage of our population speaking Spanish.  And, this population is very important in the upcoming election.

Last night's debate will be the topic of discussion in our classes today.  In the textbook we use, my students are focusing on a future tense unit that highlights environmental issues in our world, and those topics fit perfectly with the debate and the race for the White House.  We will start with in-class discussion about the debate in general and then focus on what the candidates said about the future of the country. 

Then, we are going to use some of the most relevant materials Spanish teachers have today.  We are going to watch the candidates Spanish language TV ads and some of the moments when they have spoken in Spanish to the Spanish speaking population of the US.  These are real, current, and exciting moments in our political history that YouTube can bring right into the classroom.  Spanish is a powerful language in our country, and even the presidential candidates have to use the langauge if they want to win the election.  What a powerful message to our students. 

Though it is in English, this is a good CNN video on how speaking Spanish helps or does not help the candidates and a bit about the history of candidates speaking Spanish in their campaign ads: Presidential ads target Spanish voters
After discussion and review of the videos, the students will prepare for an in-class mock-debate next week.  To preview the assignmentEach student will be given a question ahead of time and assigned a position.  They can prepare their remarks ahead and then will be asked to argue their point to their peers and defend their views in class.  They will also have a copy of the rubric below to know what I expect from them and how they will be graded on the debate. I am very excited for this project.

0-1 puntos
Así así
2 puntos
3 puntos
4 puntos

*No oral participation.
*No written notes from the debate at hand.
Así así

*No oral participation.
*2-3 sentences of notes from debate at hand.

*Some participation (voice heard at least once).
*4-5 sentences of notes from debate at hand.

√Participated frequently(voice heard more than once).
√Paragraph or at least 6 sentences of notes from debate at hand.

*Argument/Statement is not stated at all.
*Grammar and usage both have many errors.
*No relevant vocabulary.
Así así

*Argument/Statement is vague or unclear.
*Grammar and usage have frequent errors.
*Little to no relevant vocabulary used.

*Argument/Statement is somewhat stated.
*Grammar and usage have some errors.
*Some relevant vocabulary used.

√Argument/Statement is clear and easy to follow.
√Grammar and usage are correct-minor errors.
√Relevant vocabulary is used.

*No relevant facts or details provided to support the argument.
Así así

*One fact of information supporting the argument.
*Little to no detail supporting the fact.

*Two facts of information supporting the arguments.
*Adequate details supporting the important facts.

√Three or more facts of information supporting the arguments of the discussion.
√Adequate details supporting important facts.

~ La profesora

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Graffiti Board

In graduate school, I learned about using the "Graffiti Board" method to get kids to share ideas, mostly linked to reading comprehension and discussions.  I loved the idea from the first time I saw it demonstrated, and I knew I wanted to use it in Spanish class.  Though most of my classes aren't at the level where we have formal reading discussions, there are many ways to use a Graffiti Board in the target language. 
A Graffiti Board can be done be using the classroom whiteboard space, or if the whiteboard space is limited,  you can use large paper taped to the wall.  Each space has a question or prompt and the students take their time, walking around the room from space to space, writing an answer on each space.  I encourage them to use different colors and to write wherever they want on the boards.  Seeing the colors, handwriting, and varying answers gives the look of a Graffiti Board and is both fun and interesting for the students.  It is great for visual learners and for anyone who likes to get up and move around during class.  It also encourages all students to share so that everyone's answers can be seen.  No one student can dominate and all answers get the attention they deserve.  Usually when the boards are complete, I read through the answers (without mention of who wrote what) and correct any target language spelling or grammar mistakes. 
The first week of school, I assigned the students to write a short paragraph for homework telling me about them.  I asked them to use more advanced language instead of just using normal phrases like their age, where they live, and what they like.  To help them prepare for the assignment, we did Graffiti Boards in class.  There were different questions about them posted around the room.  Some asked them to respond in present tense, some in the past, and some in the future.  I asked questions that specifically asked them to answer using the grammar they have learned in the past as a reminder and to help them see how varied their knowledge is.  

Using Graffiti Boards as a pre-writing exercise was fun for them to do in class and really helped to improve the level of their paragraphs.  All of them used the present, past, and future in their paragraphs, something very few of them would have done without the in-class exercise.
~ La profesora

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I discovered that my whiteboards were magnetic somewhere along the way last year, but I didn't fully take advantage of this feature until this year.  When I was picking up other supplies at a teacher store, I found a bag of 100 magnet stickers to stick on the back of posters or other objects.  My mind started racing with the possibilities, and I have already started using this new tool in my class.

I took a map of the world and cut it up to highlight the Spanish-speaking countries and then added magnets to post it on the whiteboard.  Then I took small pictures of each country flag and put magnets on them so we can move them around and post them on the correct countries.  I also have large titles like "South America" and "North America" we can use to categorize the countries.  My Spanish 2 starts the year with a unit on the countries and capitals.  Yesterday, I gave each student a flag (some had more than one because of my small class size) and asked them to go place it on the board on the country it belonged to.  There are so many other things we can do with this map, especially because we can write on the surface right next to the map. 

I have also used the magnets on my calendar and weather board to make it easier to move the arrows around that say which day it is.  I used this board last year with tape and that magnets really help to make my changes less permanent. 

While at the teacher store, I also found a box of Spanish magnet letters.  This kit includes
ch, ll, ñ, and rr.  A regular English magnet letter kit that parents of young children traditionally use on their refrigerators would also work (just draw a ~ over the n).  This kit has been fun to use for my Spanish I class.  Though I could just as easily write the letters on the board in marker, they like that they get fun "toys" to use in class and it makes the lesson feel more exciting to them.

I can't wait to find more uses for magnets on my boards this year!
~ La profesora

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The night before the first day

Tomorrow is my first day back to class.  It is always strange to answer the question, "When does school start?" because it never starts the first day of class.  I have been working for weeks on setting up my classroom, planning lessons, attending teacher meetings and training, and working pre-season athletics and orientation events for students.  That doesn't even include a whole summer of thinking about my classes, researching ideas on pinterest and other places online, and collecting things I can use in lessons (like Spanish magazines, cultural objects, and teacher tools like popsicle sticks).

After tomorrow though, I can say without a doubt, that school has started.  My classroom looks ready, but it still feels a bit empty. 

My bulletin board is ready to display their work, but it is empty.

My whiteboards are set up and decorated with magnets for lessons from the first week, but there is no writting.

The desks are in a perfect semi-circle perfect for communicating and viewing the whiteboard, but none have been sat in yet. 
Even my teacher's desk just looks too organized.
Tomorrow, it will be a used space, and I'm excited.

~ La profesora

Monday, August 27, 2012

Connected Teacher

As we look to the start of a new year, my school is focusing many of our back-to-school faculty week discussions on technology.  It is an exciting time for education, and as a member of the generation that spends a huge portion of my day connected in some way (smartphone, tablet, computer, TV . . .) I look forward to a shift in educational philosophy that embraces this connectivity.

I wanted to share this video of a interview with Professor Alec Couros about how inter-connectivity is so important for today's educators.  Here is the link where I stumbled upon this information:

If you are reading this blog, you are already participating in the human network connection that technology affords us.  This is a good thing!  And there should be more of it!  Let us stay connected, let us share ideas, learn from eachother, and better education in our classrooms by exploring all that is out there.

My goal this year is to bring more of my out-of-the-classrooom connectivity into the classroom.  My students are connected too, and walking into a classroom where I shut the door, tell the students to turn off their phones, and disconnect them is counter-intuitive to learning another language.  Spanish opens doors to connect more with our world, with other cultures, and with people.  Connection should be a focus of the class.  

I'll let you know how that goes!

~ La professora

Friday, August 24, 2012


Foreign Language teachers are always looking for relevant materials in the target language to share with their students, and as Spanish teachers in the U.S. we have so much at our disposal!!  As many of you probably know, Spanish is the second most used language in our country and there are countless materials out there in Spanish for the Spanish-speaking American public.  Besides radio and tv channels in Spanish, there are also national publications of magazines and newspapers along with local newspapers.  People Magazine ( has a Spanish publication that only costs $20 for a two year subscription!  That is a fabulous deal for 22 issues of Spanish articles and advertisements about hot topic issues and current stars that our students are already talking about.  People en Español and Vanidades ( are also available at my local Walmart and Target stores because I live near a large Spanish speaking population. There are many other magazines available too, these are just the two I'm using right now - though I have to look into finding something more targeted towards the boys in my classes, like a sports magazine.

These magazines have wonderful full page ads in Spanish that I cut out and lament to use with my lower level Spanish students.  I hand out the ads to the students and ask them to fill out a questionnaire about the ad.  I include questions like "What is this ad for?"  "What type of product is it?" "Where can you get the product?" "Who would buy this product?" etc.  Depending on the level of the class, the questions can be asked in English or in Spanish.  Also, if the ads we use are harder for them to understand, I let them work with a partner or in small groups.  For my more advanced students, I do the same, but with short articles.  Sometimes the variety of articles we use makes it hard to have a universal questionnaire, so I ask them to write a summary of the article in Spanish and present it to the class (or to a small group if we are short on time - Jigsaw style). 

I don't let the rest of the magazine go to waste either!  I save the leftover magazines after I've cut things out to use in class posters or other crafty projects.  The students use the old magazines I have to illustrate cartoon strips they make or to illustrate any other visual project I ask them to make.  For instance, they can cut out two people talking and invent a dialogue between them focusing on the grammar point we are studying at the time, or they can cut out the face of someone and label the parts of the body (eye, ear, nose).  Any time I ask them to draw something, I give them the option of cutting it out if they don't want to draw.  That way, even the least artistic student can make something they don't mind sharing with his or her peers. 

~ La profesora

Citas rapidas - Hablamos

Getting students to talk (in the target language) is a challenge in all Foreign Language classes.  There are many different tricks to get th...