My colleague Megan Matthews and I have had such great success with the TPRS Publishing  novels the past two school years, and we would love to be able to use more of them.  Unfortunately, in our school district we are plagued by financial issues and there simply isn’t enough money for us to purchase more at this time. We have, for the past 10 years, taught a unit on Argentina that is derived from chapter 10 in the textbook (that we do not use, but we are obligated to follow the curriculum).  While we have tried to incorporate some of the vocabulary from that chapter, some of the grammar (the ongoing past tense development, the introduction of the present subjunctive and the present perfect), and some of the cultural differences between Buenos Aires and Washington, D.C., we were missing the structure, the fun, and the wonderful support of a novel.  Over the years I had developed activities for that chapter that I liked, that the students enjoyed, and that served a definite cultural purpose, I was missing that reading and comprehensible input component. So, what happened?  I got pneumonia! And I missed a lot of school! And I was bored! So, what did I do? I started to write a novela about Argentina! I wrote the first two chapters and sent them to Megan, she wrote chapter three, I then wrote chapters four and five, she wrote chapter six, I wrote chapters seven and eight, we collaborated on nine, and I finished the book with chapters ten and eleven.  What excitement!! So what I’m going to do now is share the beginning of this with you! Please keep in mind that I am no expert in the culture of Argentina, nor am I a native speaker. I began to write this novela “Amigos, Abrazos, Aventura, ARGENTINA!” to fit a definite need and purpose for my Spanish III students.  The grammatical focus was specifically a continuation of the past tense, an introduction to the present subjunctive and an exposure to some present perfect.  The cultural emphasis was on similarities/differences between Buenos Aires and Washington, D.C.(which is just a little over 2 hours from us), the geography of Argentina, the food of Argentina ( we tasted a lot of it!), and specific areas (Iguazu, Ushuaia, las Pampas), el tango (we learned the basic steps to the dance and they LOVED it!) and a bit of soccer (although we ran out of time for this). The novela has a lot of dialogue (good for acting out the story), a bit of romance, a lot of mystery and an ending open to interpretation. I was able to include bits and pieces of my students’ favorite themes from throughout the school year, and the students came up with their own decisions as to what actually happened at the end….or maybe I left it open for a sequel!

These were the “I can” statements for this unit:

1. Puedo identificar los países de Las Américas.
2. Puedo identificar ciudades, lugares geográficos, y fronteras de Argentina
3. Puedo hacer comparaciones entre Buenos Aires y Washington, D.C.
4. Puedo hablar sobre varios lugares en Argentina:
· Buenos Aires
· Las Cataratas de Iguazú
· Ushuaia
· Las Pampas
5. Puedo hablar sobre unos aspectos culturales de Argentina
· El tango
· El fútbol
· La comida
6. Puedo escribir sobre viajes.
7. Puedo hablar y escribir en el pasado
8. Puedo reconocer y entender frases con “quiero que, es importante que, espero que, recomiendo que, aconsejo que, sugiero que” 

As always, we began the unit with some pre knowledge activities, some conversation, and some map and geography exploration. With a partner, we discussed:
1. ¿Qué te gusta hacer o ver en la ciudad o el lugar en que vives? ¿Por qué?
2. ¿Qué te gusta ver cuando visitas una ciudad nueva? ¿Por qué?
3. ¿Qué te gusta hacer cuando visitas una ciudad nueva? ¿Por qué?
4. ¿Qué es una ciudad que visitaste en el pasado? ¿Qué hiciste en la ciudad?
We followed that with Qué sabes de opening activity 2015 To complete this activity (with a partner), I also gave them the answers to the questions on a SMARTboard slide. que sabes answers
We worked with our maps. La Argentina primer trabajo del mapa 2015 Finally, we were ready to begin the first chapter of the novela. After reading the first chapter, we used a series of images to share information with our partner and to retell parts of the first chapter. chap 1 retellchap 1 retell 2   chap 1 retell 3We also answered some questions and worked with the verbs. Ch 1 preguntas and repaso verbos, intro verbos
Below, I am including the first chapter of this novel, which doesn’t include a lot of dialogue, but the dialogue really develops after the first chapter.  I would really appreciate your feedback on it.  Specifically, I welcome your criticism! I am thinking of perhaps pursuing having it published, even if I do it through something like TpT.  I know that I would have to replace all of the pictures, but that is not too much of a problem because I did have my students draw pictures for specific chapters.  If you find this interesting or worth pursuing, I would love to know.  Thank you in advance for your feedback and time.
chap 1-1 chap 1-2 chap 1-3

Robo en la Noche


Snow days, snow days….give me an opportunity to get caught up with lots of things.  Even provides enough time to attempt to write another blog post!

Teaching and planning Spanish III with a great colleague, Megan Matthews, the past few years, and we have really hit our stride. We are currently in Chapter 5 of Robo en la noche, (written by Kristy Placido) and I could not be more convinced that reading, comprehensible input and these TPRS novels are the way to really help our students acquire language easily AND TO RETAIN IT. It’s one thing to say that we are reading a novel in Spanish, but it is just so much more.  This is our second time with Robo; the first time we relied extensively on the wonderful resources of Cynthia Hitz, while creating some of our own. This time around, we have added extensively to our supplementary activities. We have incorporated music, history, geography, culture, manipulatives, listening, speaking….you name it.  This is my wikipage with all of the resources that we have developed. You can click on the menu bar for the chapters; the work is in descending order, meaning that the oldest is on the bottom of the page.

We began our study of Costa Rica with the students NOT knowing where the story would be located.  We used a Primer Dia Opening Activity, combined with a smartboard presentation that we created as well as part of this video (cut so that it didn’t show the words Costa Rica/Pura Vida) , to have students begin to make some guesses as to where we were going and what it might involve. After guessing, correctly, the students then worked with partners and laptops to develop a further base of knowledge with Primer Dia. We also spent time with the song Percance Pura Vida by Percance….a song that they LOVED singing, especially the chorus!

If you visit my wikispace you will have access to the smartboards and other papers developed for the book.  There are links to TOCA boards, Picture retells, Who Said What, Kahoot and vocabulary work. Additionally, I collect resources on my Pinterest board for Robo.  I am sending everything to Carol Gaab for formal approval (hopefully).

Hope this helps some of you who are working with this awesome book!

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!


Every year, after I finish the big music/social awareness unit with Juanes, Juan Luis Guerra and Carlos Baute, my students fear that the most compelling part of the curriculum has been covered.  Fortunately, we go right into a unit about Spain that has several really interesting components.  Yes, it contains grammar (preterite/imperfect yet again and the present perfect), but it also has a great deal about sports and culture of Spain.  I get to introduce them to David Bisbal and his ever popular Bulería, Macaco, Jarabe de Palo, and Pablo Alborán, among others.  We get to discover El País Vasco, Andalucia, Galicia, Cataluña, Castilla La Mancha, Madrid, etc.  AND, we also get to talk about jai-alai and la corrida de toros.

They are always interested in jai-alai, so I’ve tried to expand that part of the unit over the past several years. We will start by taking a look at
El País Vasco with this video:

and probably a bit from the Aventuras Vascas series:

For background information on jai-alai, I use these videos:

The Fastest Game in the World

For sheer silliness, I will include the infamous Steve O and Johnny Knoxville adventure into jai-alai   and also a brief Simpsons clip:

I created a powerpoint on jai-alai Jai- Alai-1-2 and I can share my own personal stories and pictures from games that I have attended. Somewhere along the years, I also was given an actual cesta, pelota and sash.  We leave the classroom, and I always let several students in each class attempt to throw  a ball (a koosh ball, not the actual pelota), with the cesta.  It’s usually something that they enjoy trying.

If you have other jai-alai resources, I would love to know about them.  Or, if you have other favorite activities from teaching about culture in Spain, please share.

10 years of teaching social awareness through music….

I finished my 10th year of teaching social awareness through music with my Spanish III classes this week.  And, as has happened every year since I created this unit, it got longer and more involved, and the kids were terrific!  When I started 10 years ago, I used 3 songs (two from Juanes and one from Juan Luis Guerra).  This year, I used 15 songs (Juanes, Juan Luis Guerra, Carlos Baute and Yerson and Stuard).  I spent about 6 weeks in the unit full time, but I actually started the music as we were finishing a unit about travel.  Within the teaching of this unit, I also incorporated preterite and imperfect, present subjunctive, geography of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia and South America in general, history of the three focal countries and background information with authentic readings of all of the artists except for Yerson and Stuard.  I plan to post the entire unit here this summer, when school is done; however, you can see the bulk of the work here.

This year, as I have done for the past 6 years, the students all chose one song as their focus, and created their own interpretation of it.  This was the assignment: PBT La Música 2013.

With this unit, I give the only “test” of the year, which is essentially identifying the geographical and historical points for the 3 countries studied in depth, identifying positive and negative vocabulary, choosing their own vocabulary to show me what they have learned, writing what they know about Juanes, and using the lyrics of the songs to support the themes of the unit.  The last part of the “test” is to let me know what they may have gotten from this unit.  Here are some of their responses.


Additionally, I had some students create extra things, and I had one class, my smallest, ask to create their own Bandera de Manos.  I’m posting some of the projects below as well as pictures of the Bandera de Manos and some shirts that students created.

Minas Piedras 2

Bandera 2Bandera 3bandera 4bandera 5bandera 6 groupbandera 7Bandera de Manossuenos

La Historia de Juan

I would imagine that the song La Historia de Juan by Juanes is known by many, many Spanish teachers.  I’ve been using it in my big music unit for 10 years.  Over the years, I’ve found wonderful resources out there from many other Spanish teachers.  Barbara Kuczun Nelson has a great site, Spanish Language and Culture, with a nice unit on the song.  I use the reading

Los Niños de la Calle—Una Historia from that unit.  I also use several parts of this terrific lesson created by Eva Sabate for La Historia de Juan. Additionally, I’ve created my own Photo Story for Colombia with the background music being La Historia de Juan and A Dios Le Pido.  The photostory showcases the beauty of Colombia as well as some of the social and political issues.  It contains some sobering statistics about the street children.

In my never ending quest of having my students speak more, more, more…and recycle what they have learned constantly, I have added the following activities this year.  After having worked with the song lyrics once, and doing some preliminary map review, I grouped students (I had decided on the groupings before class; many times I allow them to group themselves, but not this time.) and had them do the following activity:

  • Hablen de lo que saben de Colombia, de la canción “La Historia de Juan” y de la canción “A Dios le Pido”. Usen sus letras y el mapa. Inglés/español
  • Repasen la tarea, los verbos de “La Historia de Juan” en el pretérito. ¿Hay problemas? español
  • Lean p. 2 en el paquete: Los Niños de la Calle-Su Historia (just the first half of the page). ¿Qué significa? Hablen de las palabras nuevas y viejas. Inglés/español
  • Actividad individual (mini quiz de Los Niños de la Calle-Su Historia, consisted of 5 multiple choice, find 7 cognates and a free response with their personal opinion as to why these children are so vulnerable.)
  • Escuchamos “La Historia de Juan” otra vez y completamos Actividad 2 (p. 4 en el paquete).

The next day, in the same groups, they worked with these

  • ¿Cómo se dice?
  1. No one loved                                                 9.  It was
  2. He grew up                                                   10.  He cried
  3. The world forgot                                           11.  The light went out
  4. He asked                                                      12.  The world gave
  5. She abandoned                                           13.  The world denied
  6. The world didn’t listen                                  14.  He wanted/tried to
  7. He mistreated                                               15.  It took, carried
  8. The world hurt
  • Trabajo con los verbos

Escriban los verbos en español en las fichas:  ESCRIBAN GRANDE!!!!

Cada persona necesita 3 – 4 fichas

Retell the song using only the fichas……NO LETRAS!!!

Many of the cards need to be used multiple times!

  • Partido   This song, as you may know, is very serious and depressing.  We needed something to lighten the mood a bit, have some fun, but yet still work (unknowingly) with the past tense.  (I did several things with this.  First, in their groups, they spread their index cards out so that everyone could see and reach them.  I then simply said the verbs in English while they looked for the Spanish equivalent.  The goal was to grab the card before anyone else.  If you were correct, you kept the card.  At the end of the game, the person with the most cards was the winner.  Next, I said the line from the song that used that verb and they had to find the verb to complete the line (same process as the first game). Lastly, the cards that they had won were their assigned “part of the story”.  The group had to retell the story/lyrics, using the verbs in their hands from the game.)

If you are interested in seeing how this unit is unfolding, here is the link to that chapter in my wikispace. What other ideas might you have for this particular song?

I think I’m back!

After many months of absence due to my mothers’ illness and passing, I think I am ready to re-enter the blog and twitter world!  It will be my goal to update at least twice each month, but I’m also teaching full time while being an accelerated master’s degree candidate in TESOL (meaning I’m taking 18 credits in the span of 8 months), so that might be a bit optimistic until school is finished for the year!

In several of my earlier blog entries, I alluded to a unit that I do on “social awareness”. I wrote three different entries on Somos el mundo, Ojalá que llueva café and Minas Piedras.  I always meant to go back and do an entry on the entire unit.  That hasn’t happened yet, but since I have gotten questions about it recently, I thought that I could at least post an entry about the unit in progress.  So, if you are interested, you can visit my wikispace ( ) that I use to post my lessons each day for myself and my students: La Música 2012 .  So far we have covered La República Dominicana with Juan Luis Guerra and the songs El Costo de la Vida and Ojalá que llueva café, Somos el mundo and a little bit of Aventura and Prince Royce.  We have just begun looking at Colombia and Juanes with La Historia de Juan and  La Camisa Negra.  We had already worked with A Dios le pido as we began the study of the present subjunctive, but we revisit it in this unit because the lyrics will now have additional meaning.  If you visit the wikispace, you can see the progression of the lessons each day.  It is a work in progress, and I’m usually only posting the lessons a day or so ahead of the actual date.  The current week is always at the top of the page, with the oldest material at the bottom of the page.  Therefore, if you start at the bottom of the page and scroll up, you will see the unit in chronological order! Today we reviewed what we know, and moved forward with the song Sueño (Juanes).  When you see references to photostory (an awesome program!), it refers to photostories that I have made for specific topics and songs. This week we will also be examining Minas Piedras and hopefully Bandera de Manos and Odio por amor.

If you are wondering how I do this unit (which lasts about a month) and still cover the “grammar”, it’s relatively easy.  Spanish III focuses on preterite and imperfect and present subjunctive with a bit of present perfect.  The students get constant re-inforcement on the structures through examining the lyrics, various writing assignments and some rote practice related to the songs.  You will see some of those activities listed on the wikispace.  If you have questions or suggestions….especially suggestions!  🙂  I welcome them!