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.


New Unit: Immigration

Statue of LibertyThanks to the addition of another unexpected day at home (snow day #6), I’ve been able to devote quite a bit of time to the next unit that Spanish IV is going to explore:  Immigration in the United States.  Before I go any further, I must say that I am indebted to the great, original work of Kara Jacobs @(karacjacobs) and the additions of Pilar Munday (@mundaysa) and @cristinaZimmer4. Next, I would like to say that while this is a unit that I will be using with my Spanish IV students, I think that there is material here that can be used with all levels of proficiency, including novice.  I’ve created a database for 29 songs that deal with immigration17 videos that deal with immigration and 35 links on the web for authentic resources both in Spanish and in English.  This is my Pinterest board, where I have been collecting resources for the past several months. Here is the link to the daily lesson plans from my wikispace, El Mundo de Birch which are in development and will be added to on a daily basis for the next month that I am in this unit. As of this writing, there are three full days of lesson plans, with the outline for the next six days.


1     Define la diferencia entre “emgirar” y “inmigrar”. ¿Qué es el Sueño Americano? ¿Ha cambiado el Sueño Americano? Explica tu respuesta.

2     ¿Por qué emigran ilegalmente muchas personas a los Estados Unidos? ¿De dónde es la mayoría de los inmigrantes indocumentados? ¿Cómo llegan algunos? ¿Por qué vienen ilegalmente y no legalmente? ¿Cuál es el proceso de entrar legalmente en los EEUU?

3     ¿Qué pasa ahora con la reforma migratoria en los EEUU? ¿Qué es el DREAM Act?

4     ¿Quiénes son algunos cantantes que cantan sobre la inmigración? ¿Cuáles son sus perspectivas? ¿Cómo son diferentes y/o similares las canciones y los videos? ¿Qué opinas tú de las canciones?

5     En tu opinión, ¿hay una solución al problema? ¿En qué consiste?


  1. Evaluación Oral, basada en Pregunta Esencial #2 (el 17/18 marzo) 25 puntos
  2. Free Writes
    1.  Which Way Home (10/11 marzo) 20 puntos
    2. 30 Days Inmigración (13/14 marzo) 20 puntos
  3. Compara y contrasta dos o tres de las canciones en cuanto a sus perspectivas de la inmigración illegal. (I.C.E./Bandera/Pa’l Norte/Pobre Juan) En tu opinión, ¿qué es el mensaje de la canción ? ¿Estás de acuerdo con el mensaje? ¿Por qué sí o no? Apoya (support) tu respuesta conlíneas de la canción. (25 marzo) 30 puntos
  4. Evaluación Oral, basada en Pregunta Esencial #3 después de leer el artículo de CNN       Google Voice response (20 marzo) 20 puntos
  5. Interpretación dramática de una de las canciones ( I.C.E. por La Santa Cecilia, Bandera por Aterciopelados, Pobre Juan por Maná, Pa’l Norte por Calle 13)
  • a. grupos de 3-4 personas
  • b. escriben una “obra” (play) sobre la canción
  • c. presentan la “obra” en clase (sin apuntes)
  • d. 31 marzo, 1 abril,  guión (script) 20 puntos, presentación oral 25 puntos

The initial target vocabulary for this unit: (Quizlet)

  • 1. cárcel
  • 2. castigo
  • 3. ciudadanía
  • 4. ciudadano
  • 5. cruzar
  • 6. discriminar
  • 7. dispuesto a trabajar
  • 8. echar de menos
  • 9. el derecho
  • 10. en busca de
  • 11. extranjero
  • 12. frontera
  • 13. igualdad
  • 14. leyes
  • 15. mudarse
  • 16. país natal
  • 17. población
  • 18. preocuparse por
  • 19. prosperidad
  • 20. seguir las leyes
  • 21. ser testigo (de)
  • 22. tratar (de)

Art in the Spanish classroom

I love teaching Spanish IV!  Although I follow the framework of an outdated curriculum, I am able to add topics that really engage my students.  While student interest in units on narcoviolencia, food from the Hispanic world, and identity may not surprise you, it may be surprising that students really get into Spanish art.  Prior to this year, I have only taught one of the three sections of Spanish IV in my school.  This year, I have all three sections and have been free to expand/incorporate units based on just the preferences of my students and me.  In the past, we taught a 4 week unit on Spanish art, focusing on the development of art vocabulary (and related activities), comparatives and superlatives and a brief glance at Dali and Picasso with a bit more involved week on Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.  I decided before school began that I was going to expand the art unit to 6 weeks, with a week devoted to developing vocabulary and interest, a week for the art/music/history and traditions of Dia de los Muertos, and a week each on Dali, Picasso, Rivera and Kahlo.

I will not say that all students were thrilled when I told them that we were going to study some Spanish art and artists in depth.  They were not!  Sure, the artistically inclined students were interested, but the bulk of them were not prepared to enjoy it as much as they have so far.  I decided to write this post because so many of my students told me yesterday, week three in the art unit,  day 4 of Dali, that they couldn’t stop thinking about him after class….that the videos, readings, paintings, and music that we were using did not stop when they left class.  I had students telling me that they dreamed about the art, or a video we had watched, or the song by Mecano that we had studied.  To me, this is amazing!  Their level of involvement in class, their willingess to share their opinions and ideas, and their receptiveness is so rewarding!  I am not going to claim that everything is happening in the target language.  It is not.  However, large sections of class discussion and activities are!  Yesterday, as we took an  in depth look at some Dali paintings (Geopolitical Child, The 3 Sphinxes, Swans Reflecting Elephants, Raphael Exploding Head, etc.), we definitely had to use a lot of English as they shared what they first saw, what they saw on the second look, what they thought Dali was trying to tell us, and what they thought the painting was titled.  There is great interest going into day 5 (Monday) as they know we are going to look at one his most famous creations, The Hallucinogenic Toreador.  They are eager….yes, eager….to continue with Picasso.

While I could use this blog to upload all the documents that I have used, instead I’m going to link to my wikispace, where the entire lesson in progress is a bit more detailed.  If you scroll to the bottom of the page and move upward, you can see the daily progression of the unit.  When items are listed under more than one day it means that we didn’t finish or get to the material the first time it was listed.  While I have developed a lot of materials myself,  I also have borrowed and adapted materials from many, many sources.  Hopefully, all of them are credited; any missing citations are not intentional, and if brought to my attention, I will definitely fix.

Art 2013

Dia de los Muertos

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

Vocabulary Trees

My Spanish III students are in the middle of the unit that I loosely refer to as the music unit.  So far we have covered  La República Dominicana , Juan Luis Guerra, a bit of Haiti, Somos el Mundo and are now working with Colombia and Juanes.  The unit involves a lot of work with geography, historical perspective and social commentary through song (Ojalá que llueva café, El costo de la vida, La llave de mi corazón, Bachata en Fukoaka, A Dios le pido, La camisa negra, La historia de Juan, Sueños, and Somos el mundo).  I’ve done several other posts about this unit (Minas Piedras, La Historia de Juan, Ojala que Llueva Cafe).  By this point in the unit, the students have been seeing, hearing and using vocabulary related to the music and themes for three weeks.  It is time to pull it all together and see how much of it is “sticking” in their heads.  I don’t use vocabulary lists and I don’t do vocabulary quizzes.  I am a firm believer in not learning vocabulary to merely take a quiz and then forget it.  I am constantly enforcing the concept that each student will be carrying his/her own unique vocabulary list with words that may differ from  another student.

We’ve been working with Cognates, such as

  • Prostitución                                                          
  • Privilegio                                                              
  • Traficante/traficando                                          
  • Mutilar                                                                 
  • Suicidarse                                                            
  • Atrocidades                                                         
  • Abuso                                                                  
  • Crimen                                                           
  • Abandonar                                                            
  • Corrupción                                                            
  • Economía                                                              
  • Asesinar   
  • Robar                                                          
  • Gobierno                                                             
  • Libertad                                                     
  • Soldados

and words that are related to others that we know

    • Amar/amor
    • Esperar/esperanza         
    • Hambre, hambriento
    • Morir/Muerte
    • Pobre/Pobreza
    • Rico/Riqueza
    • Sangre/sangriento
    • Sentir/sentimientos
    • Soñar/Sueño
    • Sufrir/sufrimiento
    • Temer/temor


and words that are completely new

  • Agradecer/dar las gracias                                    
  • Arsenales (which looks like it should be a cognate, but students don’t know what an arsenal is)  
  • Asustado/a                                                           
  • Derechos                                                              
  • Disparar                                                              
  • Dolor                                                                    
  • Ejército                                                                
  • Esclavitud/esclavo                                                
  • Esconder                                                              
  • Guerra                                                                 
  • Herir/Heridos                                                      
  • Huérfano                                                              
  • Injusto (no es justo)                                             
  • Justo                                                                   
  • Lamentar/sentir
  • Matar                                               
  • Minas terrestres (minas tierras)                          
  • Oportunidad
  • Paz                                                    
  • Pena                                                                     
  • Perdón                                                                  
  • Secuestrar/secuestro                                          
  • Sin techo/sin hogar                                                                           
  • Suerte/tener suerte                                            
  • Temer/tener miedo

To further enforce what we have been accumulating over the past three weeks, I put them in groups and give each group a topic, such as Violencia, Cosas Ilegales, Cognates, Infinitivos, Cosas Malas, Descripciones, Los Niños y los sentimientos.  It is obvious that there is considerable overlap within the categories.  Then, I give each group a tree outline and  2 minutes to add appropriate vocabulary to the tree.  I use a tree because the next song and theme that we will be working with is Minas Piedras, and there is a very significant verse in the lyrics that will help tie all the themes together.

Los árboles están llorando
Son testigos de tantos
años de violencia
el mar esta marrón
mezcla de sangre con la tierra

After two minutes, each group passes their tree to another group, and I give that group an additional minute to add to their new category and tree. We pass again, and eventually I have them identifying the vocabulary that they see and asking each other questions about the words.  The trees are then posted in the room for a visual reminder of our expanding vocabulary.  Here are some examples:trees 3Trees 2Trees 1This visual representation of vocabulary by theme could be done with any number of themes.

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!

Food, glorious food!

Food.  We all teach about it, no matter the language or the level and all of us have developed many activities.  In this post I will share some activities and ideas that perhaps will be new, some are specifically for Spanish but some are general for any language.  As always, I would love to hear about your ideas and activities.  Since I teach Spanish III and IV, some of the activities will be too advanced for I and II, but could certainly be adapted.

Game/Online activities

Conversation Ideas (small groups or partners)

    • foods you like/don’t like; fruits and vegetables
    • food that your family always has for special occasions or holidays
    • food that is finger licking good (para chuparse los dedos), that is disgusting (da asco), that is out of date/expired, safe to eat or not? (está pasada), that makes your mouth water (se me hace agua la boca)
    • foods that change to other foods (milk to yogurt, peanuts to peanut butter, orange to orange juice, strawberries to jelly, etc.)
    • What am I?  Partner A describes a food to Partner B who must guess what the food is (I am round, sometimes red, sometimes green.  I’m good in pies.  [apple])
    • what do you prefer on your pizza/ on your hamburger
    • favorite fast foods
    • Very guided practice

Compañero A: 

  1. ¿Qué es tu bebida favorita?
  2. ¿Qué es tu fruta preferida?
  3. ¿Cuándo comes helado?
  4. ¿A qué hora comes la cena?
  5. ¿Qué te gusta poner en una hamburguesa?

Compañero B:

  1. ¿Qué es tu comida favorita?
  2. ¿Qué es tu verdura preferida?
  3. ¿Qué te gusta poner en tu pizza?
  4. ¿A qué hora comes el desayuno?
  5. ¿Cuándo comes en un restaurante?

Video Clips


Artistic Activities

  • Small groups, give students a picture of an open refrigerator and markers/pencils.  Give them one minute to draw food in the refrigerator.  Pass the picture to another group; give them one minute to add more food to the new refrigerator before passing to another group.  Repeat cycle.  After several drawing opportunities, have students identify the food in the refrigerator orally with their group.  After a time or two of the oral work, have students label the food in the refrigerator.
  • Pictionary  Divide class into two teams.  Have each team choose an “artist” who will be drawing on the board.  Give each team a few (2-3, depending on size of class) small whiteboards/markers.  Show the two artists a vocabulary food word to draw on the board.  The teams must write the food word on their whiteboard and hold it up for verification/point.  I usually have the team have the same word written on all of their whiteboards; this keeps everyone involved.
  • Food description  Students work with a partner, each one has been given a picture of a food item.  Without saying the word in Spanish, Partner A will describe the food item to Partner B, who must draw it.


    • Class is divided into small groups.  Teacher gives a category and gives the groups one minute to write as many words as possible that fit into the category.  Have the group pass the paper to another group who will verify that the words all fit into the category and assign points.
    • Class is divided into small groups.  Teacher gives a category and gives the groups one minute to write as many words as possible that fit into the category. Teacher starts with one group who will read their words to the class slowly.  If another group has the word, the word does not count.  Groups receive points for the words they have that no other group has.
    • Use the categories like playing Taboo.  One member of the team sees the category and begins to list foods that fit in the category.  Point(s) are awarded when their team can identify the category correctly.

Sports, Friends and the Present Perfect

I believe that all language curriculums cover similar vocabulary units, including units for sports and friends.  As students progress through the levels, the topics basically remain the same, but the vocabulary becomes more extensive and advanced.  Such is the case for my Spanish III students.  The curriculum for our textbook (remember that I don’t use the textbook, but do follow the curriculum) combines some advanced vocabulary for sports and friends, producing an enjoyable chapter.   Most of my high school students are either student athletes or very interested in sports, additionally,  most of them are quite interested in acquiring new vocabulary so that they can describe their friends as stubborn, “got my back”, “stood me up”, and trustworthy, etc.  In this post I’m going to share some of the activities that I used this past year working with this vocabulary as well as the present perfect.  The chapter also focused on Spain for the “cultural element”, but I will save those activities for another post.

We started with a review of sports they already knew from earlier levels; I did this using a partner conversation with this Conversación Repaso de los deportes que ya sabemos We then made lists of sports we didn’t know how to say, but would like to know.  To keep them thinking, I showed a couple of videos.  For the Doki Descubre video, they were listening for all familiar words related to sports.   Of course we also had to talk about Fútbol and the huge success of Spain, so I showed parts of this video Continuing with Spain and sports, we also looked at these videos, sharing words we knew, and words we were learning.  

The next day I started class with an activity that I call “Levántate”, where everyone must stand up.  Before they can sit down, they have to give me a sport (in Spanish, of course) without repeating what has already been said.  To keep everyone focused on the task, if they have given me a sport and have taken a seat and I feel that they are no longer paying attention, I call on them and they have to repeat the last sport said.  If they can not do that, they must stand up again.  Obviously in this activity all hands go up immediately because they are eager to say one of the easier sports before someone else can say it.  Depending on the size of the class and what has been shared, when we get to the last 2 – 3 people, I allow their classmates to help, as necessary.  We then go into a conversational type activity combining sports and the present perfect, but I do not refer AT ALL to the present perfect.  They just talk with their partners using the paper as a guide.  It has been my experience that they do not question an unfamiliar structure as long as there is a model to use. Another partner activity is having students work with a page of sports pictures, and practice completing the sentences orally,  using the new vocabulary, as in these examples:

An activity that I use several times during the course of a school year is Walk Around Bingo.  Everyone has a bingo sheet, no English is allowed, and I give the class 4 – 5 minutes to literally walk around to classmates and ask a question on the bingo sheet to another classmate.  If the classmate is able to answer the question affirmatively using  Sí, he jugado/escalado/comido, etc., he/she write his initials in the box.  If the answer is no, he/she may not write initials in the box. Depending on the size of the class, a student may only write his initials on the paper of that particular student once (larger classes) or twice (smaller classes). I walk around the room monitoring the use of Spanish.  If I hear English, I write the name of the student on my paper, and they know that they will receive a zero for the activity.  After 4 – 5 minutes, I call stop, and have them count how many boxes have initials, and have them check if they have a bingo (vertical, horizontal or four corners).  If many students have bingoes, I collect the papers and randomly draw “winners”.  Of course, I also have to verify with the students who have initialed the boxes if they indeed have done what the box says. Sometimes it turns out that the initialed students did not do what was in the box, much to the dismay of the student who asked the question, because then they do not have a bingo!  Present Perfect Walk Around Bingo 

Another activity I used, one that I’ve talked about before is Toca ( span 3 chap 2A TOCA ) In this game, played in pairs, I call a vocabulary word/phrase and the first partner to touch the picture scores a point.  Partners alternate taking turns.  I described it fully here

Students also enjoy playing this board game with sports (full directions here) :Los Deportes game board Question-Card-Template Set A Los Deportes  Question-Card-Template-set B Los Deporte

Continuing with sports, I then did a full presentation of jai-alai and then a mini lesson on la corrida de toros, but they will have to wait for a later post, since the amount of material I created and covered would make this already very long post, really long!

For the friends vocabulary, we first discussed with partners what makes a good friend/bad friend.  As they talked, I kept a running list of words that they were requesting for which they didn’t have the vocabulary.  I introduced new vocabulary with this powerpoint: Span. 3 Chap 2B Vocabulario…pictures2  

Another topic for conversation, which incorporated both the new vocabulary as well as continuing work with the present perfect,  was “¿Qué has hecho con tus amigos hoy?”

Once students had become familiar with the new vocabulary for friends, I projected this image on the SMARTboard and had them discuss their friendships in small groups, using the words on the board.

Individually they worked with a friend survey, modeled on an activity in the text span 3 chap 2 Una encuesta de amistad-1 and shared results with partners. Working again with a partner, they talked about qualities for good friends and bad friends, and completed this:

Additionally, there are so many wonderful clips and songs in Spanish that relate to friends.  Here are several that I used, some with cloze activities, some just listening for specific words, some just for enjoyment.         

There just is so much we can do with this great topics.  I’ve shared some things that I like and with which I have found success.  I’d love to hear from you.  What activities have you used?

Getting students to talk

It shouldn’t be a secret that I am no fan of textbooks.  However, a textbook is what most districts have, and mine is no different.  Most of the language teachers in the district follow the textbook, and I must ensure that my students will be prepared to move to the next level with a teacher who will be using the textbook.  Over the span of many years, I have devised a way to incorporate most of the vocabulary in the textbook and most of the grammatical concepts taught (but not necessarily in the order that the text presents them), so that my students will not be at a disadvantage when moving on.  On the other hand, we do not use the physical book at all; I don’t even give the textbooks out at the beginning of the year.  My focus is on getting my students to talk, and talk, and talk some more.  This essential part of communication is my primary focus in Spanish III, and I use all kinds of methods to achieve my goal.  In this post I am going to highlight some of the activities that I used this past year.  According to my textbook outline, this was the “travel” unit, with two long lists of “travel” vocabulary (with several words that refer to things that the students will never use, such as cheques de viajero or cabina telefónica).  The grammatical concepts included “reviewing preterite and imperfect”, and beginning the present subjunctive with verbs of wishing, desire, recommending, etc (essentially querer, preferir, esperar, sugerir, aconsejar, recomendar). I added many, many songs, including songs that highlight the subjunctive.  We also worked with maps and geography, and this year I was able to do this repeatedly due to our new laptop carts that allow each student access to a laptop.  Students moved at their own pace, moving on when they felt they were ready to advance a level.   Here are some of the links that my students used to practice

At this point, it may help to describe the physical setup of my classroom.  I have my desks in two  “u” formations,  an inner “u” and an outer “u”, so that I can have partners behind/in front, to the left or to the right, and my personal favorite, the “moving u”, when the students in the outer “u” slide to the seat to the left every 30 seconds to 2 minutes so that there is always a new partner.  While I think it is important for students to work with classmates with whom they are comfortable, I believe that it is equally important for them to work with everyone (or they would elect to work with the same people each time).  The “moving u” assures me that weaker students work with stronger students, that girls work with boys and that friends do not become dependent on the stronger friend (language wise) to accomplish the work. With all of the oral communicative practice that my students do, I almost always have them changing partners frequently.

Looking back at my lesson plans for this chapter (Chapter 10) from this past year, here are some of the activities that I used to get my students to talk.  One of the first things that I had students do with a partner was to describe, in Spanish, what the typical tourist looks like.  I then showed them some images of a turista and had them describe the tourist to their partner. After listing additional vocabulary on the board (some that were in the official list for the chapter and other words that were at student request), I had each student draw a tourist.  The next day, they first described the their picture to a partner, then they described the picture of their partner (exchanging partners several times).

Since travel involves eating (Chapter 7) and clothes (Chapter 8),  weather and places (Chapter 9), we did some review conversation with those topics as well as a preliminary conversation about travel desires: After working with a partner, I would take a volunteer to sit in the “Hot Seat” in front of the classroom and the class would then ask that one student questions related to that days conversation topic.  I only allow 4 minutes for this and I keep track of each student who asks a question.  Participation points are given for this activity, with the person in the “Silla Caliente” always receiving an A (assuming that every effort has been made to answer the questions).

After reviewing clothes, we also did a suitcase activity one day.  In groups of four, I gave them a large piece of paper on which I had drawn an open suitcase.  I gave each group a list of items (specific quantities, colors, etc) that had to be drawn in the suitcase.  Each student was given two colors and they were responsible for drawing all of the items that were listed as their color.  Students then had to talk about the items in the suitcase and say how/when each item would be used or would be necessary.

“Intruder” is another activity that I like to use infrequently.  In this “game”, the class is divided into 4 small groups.  Each group sends a member to the front of the room and I give each of them a big colorful paper with a word or phrase in Spanish.  The four students hold the four words/phrases and the class (individual students) has to pick which of the four words is the intruder, or the word that does not belong with the other three words.  This is a great thinking activity, because while there may be one obvious answer, there are also multiple additional answers, making it possible that any of the four words may be the intruder. After the student says which word is the intruder, and why  (in Spanish), I give the team a point; sometimes if their thinking has really been quite outside the box and has involved some deep explanation, I may give more than a point.  I continue with those four words until all reasonable explanations have been exhausted, and then a new student from each team comes to the front of the room and I give them four new words.  Intruder

As students begin to master the vocabulary, I give Student A a paper with directions that say to describe the following words in Spanish to Student B, with the object being that Student B must come up with the appropriate vocabulary word in Spanish. For example:
A. Describe las palabras a tu compañero. ¡No hables inglés! Usa palabras de español y puedes hacer gestos (gestures).
1. botones
2. pagar
3. en efectivo
4. castillo
5. firmar
6. plano de la ciudad
7. recepcionista
8. entrada
9. gratis
10.hospedarse en OR quedarse

Student B would receive a similar paper with different words:

B. Describe las palabras a tu compañero. ¡No hables inglés! Usa palabras de español y puedes hacer gestos (gestures).
1. cámara digital
2. farmacia
3. oficina de turismo
4. pedir información
5. tomar un taxi
6. turista
7. tarjeta de crédito
8. billete
9. guía turística
10. albergue juvenil

Picture description is another activity for getting students to talk with a partner.  In groups of two, each student is given a paper with a set of pictures.  Both students have different papers/pictures.  With the partner, I may have them describe the pictures, identify the vocabulary, or create some oral mini story using the pictures.  Here is an example:  Actividades de vacaciones partner practice

I also have them work with just one image.  Without allowing their partner to see the image, Student A describes, in Spanish, to Student B what is on the image.  Student B must draw it.  Student A  sees this image to describe to Student B:

Student B would receive this image to describe to Student A:

And more picture work: Practicamos más con el vocabulario

At some point last year, in a  blog that is a favorite of mine,  Mis Musicuentos, SE Cottrell suggested having students repeat lists of vocabulary words to themselves.  She thought that this would help with pronunciation (and the intimidation that students sometimes feel about using unfamiliar words in front of their peers) as well as reinforce the words.  One day students would read through the list of words (aloud) three times, the next day twice, and the third day just once.  I found this to be a great way to practice with the vocabulary, and because there was so much noise in the classroom, just about every student did as I asked them to do.  This then lead to another conversation with a partner, but this time it was a bit more extended, and it involved some manipulation of the present subjunctive.  Partner conversation and beginning work subjunctive

Here is another partner practice activity : And finally, a version of the Amazing Race can be played.  Working with a partner, students are given a “clue” (really a sentence (or sentences) that requires an answer) and when they have solved it, they return to me, or a designated spot, to receive their next “clue”.  Here is a sample of clues for this travel chapter:  Amazing race sentences

While I’m not out of activities that I used in this chapter to get my students to talk, it has turned into a very lengthy post, and I’m going to end it here.  I would welcome feedback…questions, suggestions, etc.




One of my favorite discoveries this year, and really, that probably means nothing because there were so many discoveries, was PhotoPeach.  Unlike PhotoStory 3 with it’s varied editing techniques and audio capabilities, PhotoPeach is rather simple, almost basic.  While you may add music to your creation, you can not add your voice, and, you really can not do much with transitions, effects, etc.  So, students found it easier to use.  I first used PhotoPeach as an assessment tool for a cultural component with  my Spanish III classes. We were in chapter 10 of Exprésate 2 (meaning that I was using the vocabulary as the guide for my lessons, but not using the textbook…I’ll share more about my aversion to texts in a future post), with the cultural emphasis being on Argentina.  For me, Argentina is a place that I have longed to visit, a place that simply calls out to me, audibly….”Come see me!  Iguazú Falls, El Perito Moreno, Los Andes, el tango, BajoFondo, fútbol, Buenos Aires…” However, my students, while willing to trek along with me and watch/listen/mimic, really only wanted to know “What do we have to do/know?” followed by “to get a good grade?”  Do you know this generation of students….the ones who only want to do whatever is needed to get an A/B and have not been introduced to the sheer joy of learning through exploration?  So, I decided to forgo the grade system.  I gave them a guide sheet, with many, many references to all things Argentinian, and set them on their own.  Everyone will get an A simply by creating a PhotoPeach that contains at least two elements from  “X” number of references, captioned in Spanish, I told them.  Explore what interests you!  While some looked at me as if I had really lost it, and others still worried whether they would truly get an A,  some students actually did decide that I indeed wanted them to explore.  I’m not going to claim that this was 100% successful, or that it didn’t have some problems, because that is not the case.  I forgot to include the essential “credits or works cited” page.  We ran into problems with music, many wanted to use authentic music, and not the music provided by the program.  That, in itself, is not a problem, because PhotoPeach allows you to embed the audio from a youtube video.  The problem is with the school system that blocks youtube, and therefore when sharing projects with each other, the music is not there.  Some students still did the bare minimum, but other students, yes, other students, actually got into Argentina.  My delighted ears heard several times…”Why can’t we go to Argentina?”  “Why can’t there be a trip to Argentina?” and “I’m going to visit, travel, study in Argentina”.  Some students, chose to use PhotoPeach again when it came time to do our big music project two months later, but the real sense of success came with the final project of the year.  Do you know the feeling when your students have finished the HSA assessments and most of your students are exempted from final exams but there are still six days of school remaining?  What to do?  This year I opted for a “final project”.  Yes, insert a huge, collective groan here.  Why, why do we have to do this?  Well, getting past that, this project was about themselves…using their own photos supplemented by internet photos as needed.  The assignment was to share a little about themselves, their friends, the school year and plans for the summer and next year, using vocabulary they had conquered as well as constructions (otherwise known as present perfect, present subjunctive, and the dreaded past tenses) they are seeking to grasp.  To their amazement, most groaning stopped, and some pride in what they created emerged.  Since we share all projects and encourage feedback, and since these projects were personalized by their own photos, we spent four days in class creating, and one day sharing!  The results for the first project (early February), and the last project (June) are below.  The work is by the same two students.  See what you think.

student 1 Argentina and student 2 Argentina

student 1 final project and student 2 final project