An outlet for art

art I have written extensively about using music in my classroom, especially the past two years. More infrequently I may write a post about student projects or PBT’s. However, today, day 5 of summer break, I started thinking about the past school year and what I did to help my students remember the year and to be able to appreciate what we had covered. The last week of school, I created a “year in review” presentation for both my Spanish III and Spanish IV classes. While I was not surprised by the amount of music that we had incorporated into our units and into our opening routine each day, I was surprised by the amount and variety of their expressions in art.  In my individual “end of the year” evaluation of the course, just about every single one of those 110 evaluations indicated music as a major way that they had learned Spanish and enjoyed class.  Most of them now have Spanish music in their personal playlists. Also mentioned in those evaluations was the additional learning, exploring and enjoyment that was derived from other artistic endeavors.  From Martina Bex’s “freeze frame” to Allison Weinhold’s “Baila viernes” to the creation of original songs and artwork to showcase and express what we were studying, art was everywhere.

Since I have posted many student created PBT’s from the novels that we have read (Esperanza, Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha, Robo en la noche, and La Llorona), I am going to focus on other works from this past year.

Esperanza:  Freeze Frame and the results the next day here:  Ch 4 retell period 2 Ch 4 retell period 3


Colombia/Juanes :Interpret a song

Bandera de Manos b1

Minas Piedras

Vida y muerte tattoos: What did the tattoo look like that Anonymous received after his first mission?

Frida: Using one of the “color me” pages available online, show me what you have learned about the life and art of Frida

Metas: Take one or more of the songs we have studied in our goals and dreams unit and interpret it for your life.  Songs were:  Vivir mi vida, Creo en mi, La lista, No me doy por vencido, and No creo en el jamas.

Narcoviolencia:  Show me, in a visual fashion, what you know about las pandillas principales in Mexico.  They used their visuals to then complete an oral assessment.  The idea was to have minimal writing on the visual, but that the visuals would help them remember items to talk about, representing what they had learned.


Robo en la noche: Choose the six most important scenes of the chapter.  In this case, they had a choice of chapters 11, 12, or 13.

Immigration: Choose two of the three principal songs in the unit to illustrate key phrases, statements, commentaries, opinions,etc. about immigration.


Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos:



Freeze Frame

Just like I did at the end of the school year, I found myself wishing that I had taken more pictures of what they created.  It’s on my list of “things I need to do better” for next year.  I would love to learn about the “art”creations that your students have done.

Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha….. Chapter 6 in a song

Teaching Vida y Muerte for the second time has given me more time to develop additional resources to accompany the already tremendously helpful teachers guide. I have used several songs with this book already:  Casas de Cartón (Los Guaraguao), Gangsta (Kat Dahlia), Soy Raka (Los Rakas) and Tu Cárcel (Enanitos Verdes). I used Así Crecí (Farruko y Los Menores) last year, but I have expanded it quite a bit this year.  In addition to a traditional cloze ( Asi creci Farruko cloze), we have also used an activity where the students match English lyrics that I decided were the most important to the Spanish. asi creci sentence strips in english asi

This is not the easiest of songs and I do not claim to understand all of the slang in it, but I do feel that it may accurately enhance what the narrator has gone through in his life as portrayed in the novel.  Since the narrator is nine years old in Chapter 5 and then 16 in Chapter 6, it may help to provide a background context for how he has grown up. It also serves to foreshadow the upcoming action in the novel. The next step with the song was to use a word cloud that I created with words/phrases that I had specifically selected as important for my purpose.  asi wordle picasi creci wordle

I had students work with a partner to identify all of the words/phrases in the wordle, and to briefly tell the story of the song with those words.  I then grouped them in 3-4 and gave them about 15 minutes to create a poem or rap based on those lyrics, adding anything else that we have talked about or heard in the novel.  For me, the results were pretty amazing.  I had the groups present their creations the next day, and I was very pleased with what they had done together.  Some groups wanted a “beat” playing in the background, some used jazz music with their poems, others performed without any music. One of the great things about their presentations was how engaged they were listening to the other groups….and how much they understood as the groups performed.  I absolutely know that they have added “That’s how I grew up, don’t blame me, survive, and the streets taught me to their active vocabulary. Here is an sample of their creations.  Please note that I have not done any correcting of anything.  These are their original works.

Group #1

No me culpe por mi vida
Así crecí
Caminando en la calle
Eso lo aprendí
Vio por la ventana
Escucha los disparos
Y como se mataban, estaban más que locos
Vio por la ventana
No amigos o brothers
Vio en la refri
No hay nada para comer

Group #2

No me culpe para mi destino
La calle me enseñó como sobrevivir
Los federales están locos
Así crecí
Caminando en la calle
Entre los disparos
Mirando por la ventana
Vendían drogas, armas, almas
Tengo mi pistola y diente de oro
Es el fin de nuestro canción

Grupo #3

Así crecí, así crecí
No me culpe…así crecí
Sobrevivo en las calles
Escondiendo de federales
Eso que lo aprendí
Que están locos, no mí
No me culpe….no tengo comodidades
NO es mi destino, estar con federales
Viendo de ventana
Eso que lo aprendí
Yo sobreviviré
La calle me enseño

Grupo #4

En la calle aprendí sobrevivir y si salgo vivo….
Que tú eres responsible por tu destino
Y si las personas no me creen, están locos
Las personas no me crian, agarran disparos
Y los sueños de los niños, los vendían
No me culpe por las circunstancias
Los federales me buscan pero no se enfrentan
En la calle aprendí, y salgo vivo

Grupo #5

Imaginar un mundo
Donde los federales no están locos
Donde personas están caminando
Sin miedo
Donde todos tenían bien comodidades y circunstancias
Donde puedes mirar por la ventana, no se ve muertes
Donde los niños no tenían que vender para sobrevive
Imaginar un mundo
Donde decide su propio destino
Donde no tienes que decir “Así crecí”
Imaginar un mundo
Que no es responsable para el mismo error como este mundo
Imaginar un mundo con paz

While it may sound crazy, I’m also adding Mi Princesa (Victor Munoz) for chapter 7, when Analía becomes the girlfriend.  I will use the subjunctive in the song as pop up grammar and have students create sentences that they would want in a boyfriend/girlfriend (Quiero que mi novio/novia), and also for what the narrator and Analía want.

Mini Assessments for Robo en la Noche

Time is simply flying by this school year!  We have dealt with some pretty unusual circumstances….9 snow days during the reading of the novel, 16 days of PARCC testing (do not even ask me how I feel about this!), and I have missed some time due to surgeries that I had hoped could wait til summer (wasn’t possible).  Therefore, finishing the novel Robo en la Noche  by Kristy Placido. was a bit chaotic. I opted for 2 mini assessments at the end of the book, both of which were completed by students when I was not in school.  That makes the results, for me, even more amazing.

The first mini assessment was called Análisis de Carácter.  Students had to choose a character from the book and an adjective/noun/emotion that depicted how that character acted or felt: enojado, asustado, tonto, bruto, triste or feliz,. Their task was to find ten supporting sentences or phrases (dialogue or action)  that supported that character and adjective choice.  They had one 45 minute class period to do this.  Here are some examples:

13j 3 adj 1 adj 2 adj 4 adj 5

The second mini assessment that started in class on a Friday, and it was due when I returned on Tuesday.  There were four options for them, and they can be found in this document mini pbt choices revised. Here are some examples of the work that I received, from obviously artistic students as well as others for whom stick figures rock! photo 1 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 6 photo 7 photo 8 photo 10 photo 11 photo 12 photo 13 photo 149

I can not emphasize enough how fulfilling it is to use these novels.  The students enjoy them, they feel good about what they are able to do, they feel successful, and their growth is obvious.  Comprehensible input is definitely, for me, an excellent methodology.  I am going to order the sequel to Robo en la Noche, Noche de Oro, because so many of them want to know what happens to the characters….who DID say Pura Vida at the end of the novel, what happens to Dr. Parker and Ines, what does Makenna do….?.  Because I will have many of them in Spanish IV next year, their opportunity to read the novel as part of our curriculum is not available (we read La Llorona de Mazatlan, Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha, and hopefully La Hija del Sastre in level 4)….but free reading choice is!!! Our thoughts for Level 3 next year include repeating Esperanza and Robo en la Noche as well as adding Blanca nieves y los siete toritos.

Beyond the basic clothing unit….with 3 CI stories

Spanish III this year has read Esperanza and studied Guatemala.  This was followed by an extensive food unit that I hope to blog about soon. According to the county curriculum, the food unit is followed by a clothing unit with a preterite/imperfect focus which has only been referred to as past tense….never separated.  There were three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks….perfect to do the clothing unit.  This is NOT the basic, introductory unit that most students are exposed to in Spanish I or II.  It is greatly expanded, and for the past several years, I have let the students dictate where the bulk of our vocabulary is going to come from, based on their interests and questions.  Additionally this year, I decided that I was going to continue with the comprehensible input stories, and so I had to create stories to go with the unit.  (I also did this for the extensive food unit).  The inspiration for the stories came from the current popularity of Selena Gomez and Enrique Iglesias, a song by Selena Gomez (The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants) that was covered by Kevin, Karla and the Band, and the natural affinity of teenagers for shopping (or not) and the “love interest of the week.” When I wrote the first two stories (for the first two weeks of the unit), it was my intention that the students were going to create the conclusion…but they practically begged me to finish the story (hence story number 3).


While I used many activities and creations from the past few years of this unit, such as the great song ¿Qué me pongo? by Mango Punch Qué me pongo Mango Punch 2014, a fun group creation activity with La Camisa Negra, lots of partner activities, etc. (as can been seen here), the primary focus was the stories, the repetitions, and a myriad of activities that went with the stories.

The story began: Había una chica que se llamaba Sofía. Sofía tenía 16 años y le gustaba ir de compras. Le gustaba ir de compras muchísimo!!! También había un chico, un chico de 16 años que se llamaba Enrique. A Enrique, no le importaba mucho la ropa….pero necesitaba la ropa confortable.   I introduced the story for the first week with this powerpoint version Ropa part 1 The student copy for the rest of the week is Ropa part 1 We read it multiple times, using various methods and ended the week with a “practice” free write that was completed with a partner then exchanged with another group who read it, underlined the words used and gave it a score. Practice Free Write

Week Two featured the second part of the story. Ropa part 2 and another version with many images replacing the vocabulary Ropa part 2 with multiple images.  We also used these story cards Sofia 2nd part story cards to retell the story (run off, cut and laminated) with a partner. The cards also lend themselves to a multitude of activities: vocabulary identification/description, sequencing, teacher read description with student “grabbing” of the correct card, etc. Part of the fun this week was the designing of the outfits that the students thought that Sofia and Enrique had worn to the dance.

Dibuja las prendas de ropa que llevaban Enrique y Sofía. Cada persona necesita tener 4 prendas de ropa y 2 accesorios. ¡Incluye los colores! ropa maleropa female

This was a multiple day activity…the creation of the outfits, the description of the outfits to a partner, and then an inner/outer circle activity where they received and exchanged and described multiple creations that were not theirs. There was also an assessed free write for this part of the story Sofia second part free write


Week Three brought the conclusion of the story. Ropa part 3, Sofía queria ir verb completion activity an acting competition, playing Kahoot with the story and also Triple Trouble Triple Trouble game.  Triple Trouble is played with groups of 2/3 students (each with their own color marker).  The teacher asks a question, and the first student has 10 seconds to tell/write the answer for his/her partner.  If correct, he/she colors in one circle, with the goal of getting three in a row as many times as possible.  Naturally, we also had to work with the song What A Heart Wants as covered by Kevin, Karla and the Band.

We ended the week with an Educreations project  Educreations 2014 for blog which really showed how much vocabulary they were using as well as a pretty natural use of the past tense.

Esperanza….the final assessment(s)

It has been a whirlwind of a fall!  It is difficult, on one hand, to believe that I have not been able to blog since August.  On the other hand, it seems like August was just last week!  I continue to teach Spanish III and IV this year, but, as always, changes abound.  Since I do not use a text book (and haven’t now for years), I find myself creating material each year to match my students, their interests, and also, to match where I am going professionally.  I can say one thing unequivocally…enhancing CI with novels written specifically for that purpose is probably the best thing that I have ever done in my teaching career (with the exception of leaving the textbook behind, and always incorporating music).

I began this school year using Esperanza by Carol Gaab with Spanish III, and La Llorona de Mazatlán  by Katie Baker with Spanish IV.  My intentions/goals for those two books were my last posts in August….prior to the beginning of school!! With this post, I am only going to address Esperanza.  Two important observations:  my students thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it took much longer to finish that I expected!  However, it took longer because they enjoyed it so much!! There was just so much to do with the story and all of the possibilities that emerged as we went along!  You can see my entire 7 weeks of lesson plans here. I owe so much to the phenomenal Martina Bex, as it was her lessons that initially guided my planning, and I continued to refer to her during the entire journey.

We concluded this opening unit of Spanish III with this PBT Esperanza:

PBT Esperanza
Choose one of the following options to complete as your formal assessment. Pay close attention to the description, many of them contain multiple parts.
• Work days are Wednesday and Thursday IN CLASS, that work is part of the grade.
• All PBT’s are due on Friday. (Work turned in late will be accepted, but for reduced credit).
• The PBT is worth 45 points.
1. Choose two characters from the book. With another person, role play a scene from the book featuring these two characters. You must create your own script. You cannot use the dialogue in the book. The script must contain at least 10 lines per character. The dialogue will be performed in class, and a copy of the script will be turned in. ***This is the only option with a partner. ***
2. Retell a part of the book from the point of view of Ricardito, Beto or Lucy. You must use at least 20 sentences.
3. Draw at least 3 full size comic strips that highlight three important events in the book. Make sure the dialogue is realistic for the characters and does NOT come from the book.
4. Create a graffiti drawing or mural about the book. The drawing should illustrate the MAIN events in the book. Graffiti/murals contain sentences and words, make sure you have at least 5 sentences in the picture.
5. Design a poster advertising the book, include at least 5 interesting details about the book that would make others want to read it.
6. Create song lyrics and music to tell the story of the book. Use the book title as the song title. Perform for the class, live, or record your song and bring it in. Alternately, you could adapt a song that already exists.
7. Draw relevant pictures for either Esperanza OR Alberto and write at least 10 facts that the reader learns about him or her.
8. Imagine that you are a character in the book and create a diary or a blog. Describe at least 5 events that happened in the story and YOUR reaction to them. Each entry must have at least 5 sentences.
9. Put together a collage for the book using at least 10 magazine pictures or color images from the computer. On a separate paper describe how at least 5 of the pictures relate to the story.
10. Make a timeline sequencing 10 important events that happened in the book. Each event must have a picture and a description.
11. Write a poem about one of the characters in the book. The poem should include at least 20 lines that illustrate the role of the character in the book.
12. Create the documents that Esperanza would have found to be the necessary evidence for political asylum. Include a letter stating why she qualifies for asylum. Include a newspaper clipping with picture that discusses violence in Guatemala.

Rubric checklist
_______ Meets the criteria of the description (5 points X 2)
_______ Demonstrates comprehension of the book (5 points X 3)
_______ Class Time used effectively and wisely (5 points X 2)
_______ Evidence of effort and creative work (5 points X 2)

I have 44 students in Spanish III this year, and every option available in the “lo tech” PBT was used by someone. The results were amazing as far as what the students took with them from the book and our activities.  Additionally, it should be readily apparent that there is a very wide span of proficiency with these assessments. NONE of these students came to be with a CI background, and 1/3 of them arrived in Spanish III from a miserable Spanish II experience with a person who is no longer in the profession. I will let the images below speak for themselves.  I can hardly wait to start our next book……here comes the end of January!!

photo 3 photo 9 photo 10 photo 11 photo 12 photo 13

photo 1photo 2 photo 4 photo 5 photo 6 photo 7

Unexpected additions to the Immigration unit

My Spanish IV students have been working in the Immigration unit for the past four weeks.  As I wrote in that earlier post, the basic framework of the unit is based on the great work of Kara Jacobs and Pilar Munday, with additional songs, readings and materials from me. It is taking a bit longer than I expected due to four snow days that have really interrupted the flow of the lessons, and also a few twists in the unit that I didn’t expect.  We spent quite a bit of time with the movie Which Way Home, much discussion, a wonderful Free Write, and a great search to see where the featured children from the movie are today (we found most of them!). We also spent some time talking about the American Dream:  what it means to Americans, to them as students, what it means to different nationalities, how it has changed, etc.  They wrote definitions of the American Dream, illustrating them and posting them in the classroom, and then modified them after watching these videos:

We talked quite a bit about the Statue of Liberty and what it represents. Because they really didn’t know much about the Statue of Liberty, and I felt that the symbolism was important to the overall unit, I used a modified reading Inmigracion Estatua de Libertad.  I discovered that we really had to work through the Emma Lazarus poem as the English language was difficult for them!  We watched this video and we also practiced reading the poem dramatically, which I believed really helped them to understand the significance of the Statue of Liberty.

We’ve explored Green Cards, Visas, the Dream Act, and related topics as I expected to do. We have used a lot of music, which brings me to the next unexpected addition.  One of the songs that we were scheduled to study indepth is Bandera by Aterciopelados.  We began by talking about what flags represent in general.  Since there are 10 flags hanging around my room, we had a lot with which to work. flags Again I was surprised about how little they knew about their own U.S. flag. Since they had done some preliminary work with a partner about the symbol on the Mexican flag as well as the Virgen de Guadalupe, I almost felt like they knew more about that flag! We watched the video several times, over the span of 4 days, working with different aspects of it.  We talked about what they saw in the video, what they heard in the video, and how they felt.  They completed a cloze activity as well as activities with specific lyrics, translating, ordering, etc. They read about the band and why they made the video Aterciopelados reading.  And of course we sang it! Next, I used information from The World Factbook to give them more background material on the symbolism of individual flags. After reading about the flags of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and the United States, they had small group discussions about what flags have in common, what information is available about a country based on its’ flag, and when flags may change and why.  I then asked them to create their own flags (keeping in mind the lyrics to Bandera) with the condition that the flag could not represent one country and they had to write a description of the significance of  the colors and symbols of the flag created.  I gave them 20 minutes.  To me, the results were quite impressive. Here are some examples of that work, unedited….so the descriptions are as they wrote and printed them.

flags 1flags8

flags 2flags 3flags 4flags 5flags 7We have moved on, completing a few days with ICE by La Santa Cecilia, among several other songs.  We have watched 30 Days, done another Free Write, and have had two oral evaluations.  I believe that my students have remained engaged most of the time.  This coming week I plan to work with Pa’l Norte by Calle 13 and Pobre Juan by Mana as well as have them create infographics about the Dream Act/the Dreamers.  I anticipate being in this unit 7 – 8 more days.  Here is the unit plan, and here is the daily plan.





Argentina! culture, geography, reading, speaking and listening!

My Spanish III students have been in the “travel” chapter. For the past 4 years, I’ve had my students “travel” to Argentina, and I have had them work quite a bit with maps and geography (two of the many links I use).  One of the activities that I do is to have them compare Buenos Aires and Washington, D.C.  Of course, initially, they don’t know what they are doing!

The first thing I do is divide them into groups (no more than 4 students per group) and give each group a packet of laminated, full color pictures (all pictures are located on the powerpoint below, just separated).  Those pictures include geographical markers, sports, food, government buildings, etc. I ask the students to categorize the pictures into no more than 6 groups, and to write the names of the categories they chose. Buenos Aires DC categorization student group sheet  The back of this paper will be used for the similarity/difference activity the next day.

I then asked them if they could guess the places/cities in the pictures.  Of course, they came up with D.C. immediately, and because we had begun our preliminary introduction (Qué sabes de opening activity 2014) to Argentina, they guessed Buenos Aires.  The next step was to divide the pictures into two groups: Buenos Aires/D.C.: quickly and easily done. We  used this powerpoint Buenos Aires Washington, D.C. 2014 revised and started to talk about the similarities and differences between the two places. We continued this work the next day, but did not finish the powerpoint.  Instead, I gave them the packet of pictures again and this time, also gave them captions Facts for Buenos Aires Washington D.C..  I asked them to match the captions with the pictures.  Two members of the group were responsible for D.C. and two were responsible for Buenos Aires.  They had to share information with each other when they finished, and I then also had them choose one picture/caption from D.C., and one from Buenos Aires that they were responsible for “teaching” to each other. They practiced reading captions to each other, choosing the appropriate pictures, etc. We then finished the powerpoint, and each group completed the paper Buenos Aires DC categorization student group sheet with their similarities/differences. It always amazes me how much the students DON’T know about their own capital!

The next day, in groups of two, I gave each student 9 words.  Their task was to describe the nine words to their partner, without using the actual word, so that their partner would say that word(s). Each one had nine different words. Argentina questions Since we had been doing some map work, and we had watched several short clips about Argentina, I had them work with that partner to color code this map. La Argentina primer trabajo del mapa  mapa

Borrowing an activity from one of my colleagues, I had my students work with another partner to complete a reading/listening and map activity. Each partner got a description of an imaginary trip that he/she had taken.  They read it silently, then they read it to their partner.  I had them read aloud several times, using various “voices”. The next day, they each got a map, and the partner read the description of his/her trip one more time to his/her partner.  This time, the partner was drawing everything that was said on the map.  Once they finished, they had to write 5 sentences, using ONLY the map that they had drawn on, to describe the trip of their partner.  While this activity was going on, I was conducting individual one minute speaking assessments with each student in the class. Partner description of trip to Argentina with drawing activity  5 sentence about partner’s trip

A final speaking/pronunciation assessment came from a Google Voice assignment that I gave them 2 nights to complete.  We practiced reading a paragraph about a trip to Argentina several times.  They all read, and I timed them.  Finally, they called my Google Voice number and recorded it.  Google voice paragraph read Hice un viaje a Buenos Aires

A final activity with maps that was 100% engaging (again borrowed from a colleague): I gave a group of two students a blank map of South America in a sheet protector; the map had NO political divisions.  Each student had a different colored dry erase marker and eraser.  Their task was to draw all 13 countries and capitals, the equator, the Andes mountains, and label the oceans.  I had to see approximately equal colors on their finished work to indicate that both partners had shared equally in the work.  I was amazed at how intently they worked on this activity!