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.

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!

Las Metas y Los Sueños…..part 2

In the last post I included the activities for the first 4 days of the unit.  This post includes the plans for Days 5, 6 and 7 (my class periods are just 45 – 50 minutes long).

Day 5

Neil Jones has a great blog with wonderful resources and ideas for Spanish teachers.  In 2012 he posted an activity:  El sueño y el orgullo, that will fit nicely in this unit.  It has many of the vocabulary words that I am targeting, reflexive verbs and subjunctive.  It is a good cloze listening activity that I will expand into conversation and reading.

Day 6

I wish I remembered where I read the following idea, but I don’t…if you recognize the idea, please let me know and I will credit the source!  Five to seven students will volunteer (depending on class size, my largest has 26, the smallest 20) to stand in front of their peers.  I will give each of those students 2 pictures that the rest of the class will not see.  The class will receive a grid with potential jobs listed.  Their task is to ask questions to their classmates standing in front of them, trying to determine who has which job.  The students standing in front with the pictures may only answer yes/no.  Every student must ask a question, with the “winning student” being the first student to match his classmate with the job correctly. This may have to be adjusted!  Following this whole class speaking/listening activity, I will give a picture to each student in the class and have them respond to this prompt:

Eres la persona en la foto. ¿Cómo llegaste allí? ¿Cuáles eran tus sueños/metas? ¿Cuáles eran tus retos o desafíos? ¿Cómo lograste tus sueños? ¿Cómo conseguiste tus metas? ¿Siempre creías/pensabas que tenías éxito? ¿Tenías miedo o duda alguna vez? ¿Cómo puedes usar tu posición para el bueno, para cambiar algo en el mundo? ¿Cómo vas a alcanzar nuevas metas?

Here are the pictures and the student grid: Metas Tus Trabajos del Futuro

Day 7

The Axel song, Celebra tu vida, which has been playing several days as students enter the classroom, will be the focus of today.  Students will complete a cloze activity of the first part of the song, which we will then discuss (vocabulary) and will take a brief glance at the subjunctive being used.  I will then place the students in small groups, 3-4 students to a group, and I will assign each group one of the remaining verses.  Their task will be to illustrate their part of the song and share it with the class. Next, we will look at several tweets from Axel that use several of our targeted vocabulary words about goals, dreams, reaching the goal/dream, etc.  The last tweet that we will examine is about an unlikely duo that auditioned for the X-Factor in England, which will lead us to viewing that audition and responding, first with conversation and then in writing.  The resources for today are here: Metas Celebra tu vida Axel

Additional note:  I will be speaking individually with several students over the span of several days, working toward the first evaluation in which they are to describe their own dreams and goals to me.

Thoughts and comments, suggestions, etc. are always welcome!!!

And the curriculum guide says………

para alcanzar tus suenosOur curriculum for Spanish IV says that we are in a chapter that focuses on aspirations (tough vocabulary, abstract ideas) and,…..tons of grammar (preterite of stative verbs, grammatical reflexives, preterite versus imperfect, subjunctive with adverbial conjunctions). So, am I tied to this textbook that we have been given? No!  With this post I hope to encourage those of you who have a textbook that may not be the most relevant….meaning that it simply doesn’t have the authentic resources that will tie it to comprehensible input……to take part/some of what the curriculum dictates and create something that does use authentic resources.

For the past three years I have been modifying this chapter, trying to add interest, trying to make it relevant and not so overwhelmingly dry and so heavy, grammatically. Even so, I have not looked forward to tackling this chapter again this year. To some extent, I have had success, but not enough for me to be content with what we’ve done.  Therefore, I decided to undertake a complete overhaul of this unit.  I’ve created a master plan (backwards design) and have modeled the “look” of the plan on one that I started using after admiring/implementing the work of Kara Jacobs. The name of the unit is now Las metas y los sueños, and it does include many of the elements of the original chapter. Here is the ” BIG PICTURE.”

Preguntas Esenciales

1. ¿Qué es tu rutina diaria? ¿Cómo te escapas la rutina?                                                    2. ¿Cuáles son tus metas, tus sueños? ¿A qué quieres dedicarte? ¿Cómo han cambiado tus metas /sueños desde tu niñez? ¿Cómo vas a lograr tus sueños? ¿Cómo te enfrentas a los retos, los obstáculos?                                                                                                   3. ¿Quién es una persona que ha superado mucho? ¿Cuáles son las características y/o las acciones de la persona que ha superado mucho?  ¿Quién es una persona que admiras?¿Porqué?                                                                                                                                        4. ¿Cómo presentan los sueños y las metas las canciones y/o las películas populares?                                                                                                                                5. ¿Cuál fue la banda sonora de tu infancia? ¿Cuál fue la banda sonora de sus años de escuela secundaria? ¿Qué crees que va a ser la banda sonora de tu futuro?


1. Examen Oral (25 puntos): describe tus metas y tus sueños y cómo han cambiado (6 febrero)                                                                                                                                   2. Examen escrito (25 puntos): describe a una persona que admiras (11 febrero)                                                                                                                                   3. Examencito oral (20 puntos): Contesta preguntas sobre tu rutina diaria (14 febrero)                                                                                                                                    4. Presentación (con compañero, 30 puntos) : Escoge una de las canciones/películas y haz un video/ppt, etc. que refleja el significado (26 febrero)                                                  5. Presentación: La Banda Sonora de tu vida con audio/explicación escrita (25 puntos) y presentación oral de 2 minutos SIN APUNTES (20 puntos) (5 marzo)

I am going to try to post the various materials being used as I use them.  As with so many of my Twitter colleagues (so many, but to name a few: Kara Jacobs, Sarah E Cottrell, Cristina Zimmerman, Kristy Placido, Mike Peto, Bethanie Drew, Cynthia Hitz, Carrie Toth, Amy Lenord) the emphasis for providing comprehensible input will come from authentic resources. However, I will say that with the constant weather interruptions, it has been impossible to gather momentum yet!

I introduced the unit with an unusual video:  Elvis Presley, singing If I Can Dream in English, with Spanish subtitles.

This was followed by some discussion of his dream and dreams in general.  I had pre-targeted some vocabulary, which was on the word wall in Spanish only: metas, intentar, realizar, soñar con, retos/desafíos, and I kept trying to insert the words into our conversation as I pointed to them on the wall.  Next I had them work with a partner with a “Twitter” page (modeled after Twiccionario by Zachary Jones).  To create your own Twitter page is relatively simple by using the #hashtag with the word(s) desired.  In this case I wanted authentic tweets about #metas.  Metas day 1 beginning

Day 2 began with several posters from the site desmotivaciones that focused on dreams, goals, challenges, etc. Working with different partners, they worked their way through the 8 posters, trying to derive meaning while adding to their vocabulary.  After about 7 minutes, I had them choose two that they either understood well, spoke to them, or were giving them trouble.  They then shared with the class. Here are the Metas carteles, and here is a link to them on my wiki (so they could see them in color). Following this, students worked in small groups (3-4) creating definitions for los sueños y las metas and discussing whether a dream is the same thing as a goal.  After that, they worked individually to focus on their own dreams and goals in three categories: education, family/love, and profession/future plans. They also began to write briefly about how they would reach these goals/dreams and the challenges they might face. Metas personales

Both days I have had Celebra tu vida by Axel playing as they come to class.  I intend to use it extensively this coming week. The plan for Monday is based on a lesson that has gone well for the past 5 years, and one that came from Zachary Jones‘ older site, Actualidades.  It includes a lectura, video, and a free write about Kseniya Simonova, an artist from the Ukraine who won the Ukrainian version of America’s Got Talent in 2009. Metas Kseniya Simonova If you have not heard of her, or seen the video, it really is worth watching.  Each year my students have been amazed, and very moved.  It has led to some rich discussion and some interesting free writes.

We also will be looking at parts of the famous speech by Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream, using the Spanish text. (This idea came from something that Zachary Jones posted on MLK Day, what an incredible resource he is for Spanish teachers!!!!) We will watch small parts of this video 

  We will use this lectura based on the speech.   Metas MLK

Both the work with Kseniya and Martin Luther King are activities designed to support the oral assessment of dreams and goals as well as the written assessment on a person that they admire.  Since this is a work in progress, I would really appreciate any ideas, suggestions, comments that you might have.

A versatile song for verb tenses

For a couple of years I have used the song Todo Cambió by Camila when working with the preterite and imperfect.  Each year, the song has been well received, but this year, the Spanish III students absolutely loved it.  Spanish IV students have also enjoyed Llorar by Jesse y Joy and Mario Domm (from Camila).  For many of them, they would list Jesse y Joy, Camila and Juanes as their favorite Spanish artists.  Unfortunately (or so I thought), both Mario Domm and Samo from Camila have left the group to pursue separate careers. About two months ago I ran across the song Inevitable by Samo (after listening to what was then his new release,Sin Ti). I thought it was interesting,made a note to use it, but forgot about it.  Thanks to the ever creative, resourceful Zachary Jones, I was reminded of the song again this past week when he used it as a Clozeline activity, and knew immediately that I had to use it with my Spanish III students as we continue to focus on present indicative and past tenses with authentic resources.  Little did I know how much my classes were going to like this song!!

Using the idea from Zachary Jones, I decided to focus on the present indicative verbs as well as the preterite verbs in the song Inevitable.  I always have music playing between the change of classes, as students are entering my room.  On Thursday, the song playing was Inevitable by Samo. Sometimes students merely glance at my SMARTboard to see the video when they enter, other times they really watch.  This was definitely the latter.  I started class focusing on vocabulary activities for our current unit, telling them that we would be working with the song later in the class.  I then passed out SAMO pres pret imp.  Working with a partner, I gave the students about 30 seconds to identify what was in the two boxes.  I then gave them about a minute to work through the verbs orally to identify them. Prior to listening to the song, we talked about the word, inevitable, in English, and I had them predict what they thought was going to happen in the song.  I then played the song (without letting them see the video) and had them complete the cloze.  The first time, I stopped after the first 7 lines to verify that they were clearly hearing the lyrics and that they just couldn’t write fast enough to complete it all.  I then started the song again, and almost all of them successfully finished the song.  We confirmed the verbs and then they worked their way through what they thought the lyrics were saying.  Next, we watched the video.  To say that they liked it is putting it very mildly. They asked to sing it in Spanish, which we did….twice….and the next day, too!

Because Spanish IV is working with the present subjunctive, I decided to use the song for them, also.  The focus for them was present indicative, preterite and present subjunctive.  I had them, with a partner, identify the three boxes as well as the meaning of the verbs (Samo pres pret subj).  I then had them look at the lyrics in the first seven lines and tentatively guess what verbs they thought would complete each line.  In all three classes, they chose almost all of the correct verbs prior to listening.  Next, they listened and completed the cloze.  I then had them focus on where the subjunctive was being used and, with their partner, they determined why it was being used.  Finally, I asked them to try to say the lyrics in ENGLISH as the Spanish was playing: Bedlam! They practically begged to sing it in Spanish. Many of the students asked if they could download the song on their phones immediately!  Of course I had to say yes!

The next day, Friday, I used the much slower Samo song, Tú fuiste quien.  This time, the focus was on past tense.  I did not expect the Spanish III classes to enjoy this song as much as Inevitable, and they didn’t.  However, they did like it.  We will work with it again on Monday……at their request!  

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?