Thursday, August 31, 2017

Creative way to change seats in the WL class by using cultural realia

Creative way to change class seats by using cultural realia

I'll admit, I really suck at changing seats. I really get so used to where students are sitting that usually don't change seats. However, they always complain because they'd like to move around. Point taken! Last year, I'd have them move seats and ask questions that were similar to that of a personal interview. If you want to learn more about Personal Interviews, check out
So year, I am adding to this protocol. In addition to the run-of-the-mill meet and greet, I found a new fun way to move seats, keep students in the TL and add a bit of culture to the mix. 

Postcards from Spain (or any culture)
 I am using these postcards that I purchased in Spain for organizing seats. If you've traveled and have a few, great. If not, you can download pictures from the internet to match the theme that you are teaching (see some online printouts below). 

How to use them? 

I bought 6 of each type of post card. Most of them have food or is a picture of a monument. I will write a description on the back of the card, have it laminated (or you could just tape laminate, I did this last year). 

Check out the example below: 

Postcard frontal view                                      
                                                               Backside view with text
Click for printable postcards online

I will post several more examples in the next few weeks. Here is how I am planning on using this activity: 

* I would do this activity the second time you have to change seats so that students have some vocabulary under their belt for the activity. 

1. You'll have to have a set of about 30 cards. My classes are usually around 32 students. 

2. Make sure you have at least 6 different cards in the stack. 

3. Pass them out to students as they come into the class. I like to have the instructions projected or written on the board. This activity may be best for Spanish 2+, but you can do Spanish 1 and just have students look at the picture and make comments in addition to introducing themselves. 

4. If you keep the same cards all year long, you can have students share out the first time. However, if you change with the unit like I do, I have them share out all the time. 

Activity 1: Bringing it all together 

Personal questions first (depending on level)
Seat moving questions for Spanish 1 (after the first unit). 

¿Cómo te llamas?
¿Cuántos años tienes? 
¿De dónde eres? (I have them choose a country in the beginning of the year)
¿Cuál es tu color favorito?
¿Tienes máscota?
¿Cuál es tu clase favorita?

The questions get progressively more challenging as they go up the proficiency ladder. 

Modifications for the busy teacher

If you don't have time to write a blurb, have students do a general "describing" activity. For example, you can print out pictures of a famous Spanish-speaking soccer team and have students write descriptions. Remember, you can personalize this to whatever vocabulary you are teaching, the unit or even a review.  

Thank you for reading!

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Thursday, August 17, 2017



This year I am so excited to begin the new year. As I flipped through my unit plans, I came across several engaging and language-filled beginning of the year activities.  I'd like to share a few ways that you can get your novice-level students to use the target language, meaningfully, from the day 1!

 #1 Speaking the TL from the very first day! 

So I teach really nervous nellies the first day of school. They come into my class with a terrified look on their face because for some of them this is their first time in a Spanish class ever. Last year many of my students had taken Hebrew as a second language and were totally unfamiliar with Spanish. I had to find creative ways to lower their affective filter but engage them in the language from the first day. My first plan of action is to get them to take the first step; introducing themselves and getting to know their classmates. 

As they file into my room: 
I only greet them in Spanish and then after they have taken a seat.  I introduce myself with a PPT slide: 

I use the laser pointer to encircle "Me llamo"in the statement so that students  that understand that I am stating my name. Then, I point to myself while saying repeatedly "Me llamo." Soon after, I circulate around the class. Every student introduces him/herself, and they love it. They feel so empowered just by introducing themselves.

#2: Teaching the alphabet with a twist! 

So, in years past I NEVER taught the alphabet (I only do this on the first day). Students would always ask me mid year "when are we learning the alphabet?" My response was "you're learning it now!" But, this alphabet activity is a good way for introducing sounds and having students sound out their names in Spanish. 

First, I give them a Spanish letter board, like the one from (alphabet in Spanish and sound out letters in Spanish. ) you could google "Spanish Keyboard" and find some good ones online to print.    

Then, we go through and sound out the letters. Again, this is more of an exercise to make them feel comfortable in the class and get them familiar with Spanish phonetics. We then listen to the video below. You can switch the order of these activities. 

Listen and view Alphabet video (the music is a bit infantile, but the music will get them grooving). Now students have "how to say their name" and 'how to spell it" under their belts real fun begins. 

#3: ¡Las citas rápidas!

With the expressions on the board or the projector and after having practiced a few times, I have them go around the class to meet their fellow classmates and write down at least three names. 




 #4 Who did you meet? 
 After this, I write or project "Yo conocí a." I give them examples, by asking students their names and then saying " Clase, yo conocí a Miranda. Students verbally share out who they met during class. 

 #5: Teaching numbers with the KWL activity 

What do you know about the Hispanic Culture- Teaching a few numbers and team-building!  

 In addition to reintroducing themselves and meeting other new classmates, I survey what they already know by teaching numbers.

We only focus on numbers 1-7 because students will get into groups to do some light group work.

For numbers, I usually teach this trendy song:

San Fermin Song  (I do it Guacho style)

Uno de enero, dos de febrero, tres de marzo, cuatro de abril

cinco de mayo, seis de junio, seite de julio San Femín!

After this high-intensity song, I have them call out numbers 1-7. The first student is one, the last is 7 and then we repeat. I have all the like numbers group and do to the KWL activity. You can make this activity anything you like. I think it is good for several reasons:

1. It is another "get-to-know-you activity
2. It fosters team-building
3. It's a diagnostic in nature, you get to see what the students know.
4. You get to reinforce numbers, students leave class with one more vocabulary set under their belt.

Materials: 7 sheets of butcher paper or chart paper with categories listed and

Deportes (picture of sports)- one student draws the picture.
Personas famosas

Historia/ Arte

Sharing time:

One student shares for the group: They start off with "Nosotros tenemos".... and then they list what they have in English, but they learn "tenemos" on the way.

I have a list of farewells they can say going out, and they usually choose 1. For my upper-level students. 

I got this list from Pinterest. Click here for the link: 

These are some activities that I used to immerse my students in TL from the very first day. Please share your strategies!

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Freebie- 12 Fun Movie Activities 4 Teaching Preterite and Imperfect

Borrón y cuenta nueva: changing the way I teach


A few years back while teaching middle school Spanish, I would not have gone near the preterite and imperfect tenses in Spanish I. In fact, I am ashamed to say that we barely scratched the surfaced with the preterite. We did plenty of reading (before I discovered TPRS/CI). I had the Pobre Ana readers (which was one of the best units) or I just created my own resources, especially those that allowed my students to tackle global problems (IB curriculum) in Spanish I.

Although my views of language acquisition were heavily influenced by what I read from Krashen and another language theorists, I had this threshold in my head of how far we could go in the lower levels of Spanish (5-8). It really was a fixed mindset, a glass ceiling of student potential, which started to shatter over the years; maybe some of you can relate. However, the last few years, I have been experimenting with many different methodologies, and now, I can safely proclaim that my hashtag is now "#borrónycuentanueva." 

Deepening my understanding of the nature of language learning has inevitably fostered more rich and robust experiences for my students. My project-based learning units go more in-depth and privilege the language and process over the final product. My classes have been more communicative and my lesson plans are stitched together more tightly around the core goal of receiving quality input and the emphasis on thinking skills such as inferencing as so forth. Now, I am on the cusp of another strategy that brings the best of all modes: MovieTalk.  

Looking for more resources on teaching film? Check out the links below!

Free film unit starter kit- Movie visuals, questions, vocabulary and speaking engagements 

Cine Colombia-Resources for the short film: El Almuerzo. Click here for the synopsis activities. 

Film Unit Page- wide range of activities including trailers and short grammar/viewing activities for Spanish series

There are two activities I'd like to highlight in this post: 
1. My Wanna-be-Movietalk activity (my-inching-approach to Movietalk)
2. Circumlocution activity we did with a Spanish TV series (this was very fun). 


My expertise in terms of Movietalk is at about the Novie-low level, hence the graphic to the right of the text. The activity shared in this post is an approximation to Movietalk as stated above.  It may not be cookie-cutter perfect but I got a lot of mileage out of it and my students responded very well to the activity, hence me wanting to share it with the language community.  

Movietalks prizes itself on using animated silent films to provide controlled, quality input thus equaling comprehensive language to students. In these films, the focus is on the action and its sequence and less on what was actually said (hence the preference for silent animated films).  Furthermore, the absence of dialogue frees the teacher to use the film as a blank canvass from which he/she has autonomy in focusing on selected structures. This is what I loved about my attempt to "Movietalk." I used the film: The Defective Detective (featured in the picture above). In the paragraph below, I'll plot out how I used this movie to practice the imperfect and preterite tenses (again, in the real MovieTalk, you are supposed to focus on one structure). 

Click here for the activity!

Below are some very useful and bonafide examples of  Movietalk, and they abound, are below:

Check out the Balcony Girl Movie Talk, the resources are amazing! It is a great addition to any unit highlighting reflexive verbs!

I really liked this activity and best of all it is free!

Background information on Movietalk- this really helped me to develop an appreciation for my new way of engaging students.

How to do movie talk


Last year's use of the Defective Detective 

When I used this movie last year, we simply watched it and I had students use the preterite and imperfect tenses to describe what was going on. Why is this not the most effective manner in using resources such as this? 

1. I was forcing students to create based on limited input (completly wrongo!)
2. With the fast pace of the short film, it was difficult to keep up so this inevitably raised the affective filter and students were not ready to take risks. 

This year's Detective Defective

This year, I did the same film but incorporated some of the elements from Movietalk. Again, this was not a bonafide Movietalk as prescribed in the TPRS community, but it was my attempt at using the film to create a safe class culture, providing input and eliciting responses that were aligned to our communicative goals for the day, and it was great! 

Click here for the resource that I created. I did this Movie-Communicative activity with my Spanish 1 students, but this could easily be done with higher levels of Spanish. The lesson took about an hour. 

What does this resource include?: 

Warm-up activity 1 
¡Qué escandaloso!

1. For the warm up activity, I had students look at the screen shot and then imagine that the main character was reading an event that took place in their Spanish class. They then had to write 3-5 sentences about what happened in class. This comes on the heels for several classes being exposed to input using the preterite and imperfect tenses. Activities such as building a story together and re-working the chapters of Agentes Secretos were several preparatory activities implemented. 

The Prensa (the main character reads a newspaper, hence to connection to writing an article) activity included a “Reminder about the preterite.”

For the writing activity, a student example is provided: ¡El estudiante saltó sobre los escritorios! 
This short vignette allows students another exposure to how the past tense is used in Spanish. In preparing for this activity, I read Martina Bex’s article on MovieTalk. Although this activity is more of a variation of Movietalk, the key takeaway was exposure to the language, and that is exactly how the activities were designed. 

Click on Martina’s article here: 

2. Activity 2: La prensa 
Students write about what happened their class, using the preterite tense. They use the newspaper-like template to carry this out, which is included in the document. 

3. Activity 3: El imperfecto 
Students read a“Reminder about the imperfect.” For simplicity, I only teach a few forms. 

4. El estudiante escandaloso revisited 
For this activity students reread the vignette in the beginning, only this time with the imperfect tense sprinkled in. This mirrors what they will do for their short vignette.  Students then rewrite the (fictitious) event that happened in class, only this time sprinkling in the imperfect tense (as done in the example). 

5. El preterite versus el imperfecto
 For this activity, students recognize the different forms of the preterite and imperfect tenses. This could be utilized as a previewing activity as well.  They completed a preterite/imperfect activity. Many of the words were used during the "Wanna-be-Movie-Talk." They were exposed to these words again during our "input session" and then again with the information gap activity.

6. Guided Oral Questions for Movie
 I used a script of questions to guide the movie discussion. I just wrote down what I was going to say because I'd forget. This was the most AMAZING PART! I could not believe how students, after about two classes of differentiated communicative activities with some basic instruction on the tenses, were incorporating the structures into their responses. Since I just read about circling by Martina Bex (I promise that I'm not name-dropping, she actually presented at our school in the beginning of the year and I am just getting around to using these resources). 

At the end of the day, the students felt good. Some of my Spanish IV students dropped by to help them and were amazed that they were learning preterite and imperfect. This lesson was a natural progression because we had just finished Agentes Secretos. Some of the activities we did, had called for the preterite to be used. You can click here for those activities as well (they are all free). 

7. Information Gap activity
 I created a little story about the film, the premise is that the detective is seeing a psychiatrist two years later due to the paranoia-induced evening at his neighbor’s apartment.  Students filled in the blanks with either the preterite or imperfect tenses. A word bank is provided as well a the answer key. 

8. Alternate ending for movie 

 Alternate ending activity. Students wrote an alternative ending to the short film. Check out my website for student examples. 

Circumlocution Fest 

This activity may have a name, but in absence of it, let's say it "Circumlocution Fest." So, I decided to show El Internado, at least the first few chapters in Spanish 1. I use the series for Spanish IV and Michael Peto's website My generation of Polyglots is the go to spot!  Allision Weinhold from MisClassesLocas  also has some charming resources! When I first Allison's  tweet about using El Internado in the lower levels, I was like "No way!" My vehement response was based on me using it exclusively as a Spanish IV series. However, after our Wanna-be-Movietalk and practice with the preterite and imperfect structures, I thought it would be an engaging activity. 

We are only watching the first few episodes, but I recommend it because: 
- The storyline is very engaging 
-Completely accessible on Netflix 

Here is what I had my students do: 
1. View the trailer of El Internado
2. From the trailer, think about what the story series is about and make a list of ten words in the preterite they could use during our "Reacciones" segment. 
3. They had to use only these words to discuss what happened in the segment. For example, one student chose "bailó." Since no one "bailó" during the first 15 minutes, she had to say that Nadie bailó. It was fun "making" our language work. 

Thank you for reading! I really enjoy finding these new strategies and applying them!

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El Cine Colombiano: 11 Activities for Teaching Film

Cine Colombiano- ¡Qué chévere! 

This year's film unit is taking even a steeper climb through the South American Continent.( Click here to see the post about 5 film activities for your class. Most activities are free! ) I've added two films to explore cultural themes and social issues while conversing in the target language.  

On a personal/pedagogical note, this year I have been learning about MovieTalk, a TPRS strategy for enhancing listening comprehension and focusing on structures. I am still learning about this key strategy in facilitating conversation using film, I am no way an expert, but I have incorporated some of those practices in my class (Check out my Wanna-be-Movietalk activity: Eight free engaging activities for teaching the preterit and imperfect tenses). I am slowing incorporating these strategies as I go.  

Shall we take a peek? ¡Dale!

Film unit vocabulary and activities- absolutely free. Engage your students in the following activities: 

1. Vocabulary matching- in the target language

2. Writing about their favorite movie, using the vocabulary. 

3. Pique their interest in Hispanic movies by allowing them to view images of movies and read summaries/ respond to questions (I have used this activity in Spanish Club). 

4. A short activity of films shots, I go all out in my film unit!

I used the Free Film Unit to introduce vocabulary and get students discussing movies in Spanish. The movie images come with summaries (upgrade from last year, if you downloaded this activity) and the narratives really pull students in. This can be used as part of a film unit or as a teaser or cultural assignment... or even sub plans (I'm just saying).

Check out this teacher's Movie Packet. I purchased it and use it every time I watch a movie. This resource is really my go-to for anytime I have found a great resource, but have not either created materials or found them online. It is very simple and I have used it mostly with series or in Spanish Club.

Now on to the films!

El Almuerzo 

This short eight-minute film highlights the challenges that poor families, especially children face in Colombia. It is about two young girls trying to get a meal. They face a few difficulties, which force them to be creative in solving their problem.  The resource below gives an overview of the film for students, vocabulary activities, especially Colombian regionalisms. It also gives students an opportunity to think about the broader themes touched upon in the Cortometraje. We had a great discussion and then went around the class greeting each other with "Qué hubo" a particularly Colombian expression. See the activities outlined below. Check out the preview on TPT! 

- Short introduction to the film in the target language 
- Vocabulary from the film and information gap activity using the vocabulary

- Watch and pause questions (freeze frame- paying homage to the Movietalk strategy).

- Discussion questions

- Deep Dive (more in-depth) questions

- Writing prompt

Maria, Llena Eres de Gracia 

This film has become a staple in my Cine Latino Series. It highlights the life of "mules" or people who transport drugs. I used the SparkEnthusiasm's packet, click here for the link. I also created some of my own resources to widen the snapshot of this issue. You can see those resources below. They are totally free and were compiled by online resources and made more comprehensible for students. With the SparkEnthusiasm Kit, I was able to do a gallery walk around the class and have students jot down information about the movie. Also, this packet comes with tons of activities that could be used for pre, during and post. In fact, my summative assessment will consist of the viewing questions, listening, and summary. Had I more time, I would have organized stations. 

Current Event: Model turned Mule 

The featured article below is a sad but true event that occurred a few years ago. A model from Medellín, Colombia made the regretfully dreadful decision of becoming a mule. We read this article right after seeing the movie María, Llena Eres de Gracia. 

This news article sheds light on this issue and the kids were every surprised, even after watching the movie. Click on the original news article here, for your native speakers! Click here for the free "Comprehensible Input Version." I have to say that I only added a few things. I thought that most of the words used were cognates or easily identifiable. I might have changed phrases such as " le cayeron veiente años" for "recibió veinte años." 

After reading this article with two classes, I decided to change things up for the third class. Turns out that the students in my second class actually googled her and found out that she was sentenced to 15 years; hence my notation in the article. Also, they found a video of her modeling days.

Prior to giving the last class the article, we watched the modeling video. I told them that the video was about an up and coming model from Colombia. After the video, we read the article and, boy, were they surprised. This had more of an impact because this girl is young, beautiful, obviously not poor, had a youtube presence and was blossoming as a model. We then read the article and responded to questions.  Click below for the video, and it is totally appropriate.

Check out the film resources below!

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

4 Short Language Learner Stories for your Level 2 Spanish class, activities included!

4 Short Language Learner Stories for your Leve1 2 Spanish class that your students can't miss!

oh, did I mention that all reading activities are included!

Federico and his friends have a pretty simple life. They love to play basketball, soccer and go skateboarding at the park. They also love to go to their favorite hangout out, La librería Curioso: the only abandoned building left in an up and coming town. This space gives them the privacy they need to practice pranks and other hilarious stunts to upload to Youtube. But the night of Friday the 13, their jokes go sour. While shooting the breeze and popping firecrackers, they stumble upon an uncanny situation. In an effort to satisfy their curiosity, they witness something will change their lives forever. Now the boys have to try to make it out of this situation, alive.  

Available on Amazon (Late August)

 and (Late August)

Click this link to view on TPT  (2 chapter preview)

This book is currently being reformatted with illustrations and a glossary! It will be available at the beginning of August on TPT and Amazon!

La fiesta inolvidable- Short Story for Spanish 2+
Activities included 

This story is dedicated to all the wanna-a-be party animals! Antonio learns a powerful lesson about throwing parties and following instructions... al pie de la letra. Check out the two chapter preview below. This story comes with a glossary and 5 reading comprehension activities. 

Lighten the mood with this short, funny and crazy story,"La fiesta inolvidable for level 2+.  Mostly told in the past tense, this story about an unsuspecting teen and his experience in throwing a party, albeit with a few hiccups, like his bratty sister who's smart as a whip, his crush with an overprotective father (her story is coming out) and a forgetful mother, well, her and Antonio might have this in common. La fiesta inolvidable will definitely lighten the mood in class as it is filled with funny situations, close calls, hilarious characters, and scenarios totally relatable to teens and best of all...TOTALLY COMPREHENSIBLE! Some of the thematic vocabulary includes: 

Click here to view on TPT

See two chapter preview below!

  • Family
  • House 
  • Travel
  • Relationships   
Prevalent Structures include: 
  • Preterite
  • Imperfect
  • Past perfect 
  • Some subjunctive
Students will definitely relate to the bothersome but crafty little sister (I think this character was inspired by my brother), the helicopter mom, impatient dad and, the cougar grandmother (okay, this one may be a little crazy, I"ll admit) and a host of friends who think they have all their bases covered (the youth these days!). The story also sprinkled with a few common Spanish saying such as "Ni papa" "Lo pasado, pasado está," and "Llevar la fiesta en paz" (well, this literally). If your students have ever tried to get away with something, which I sure they have, then this story will have them laughing at themselves and at the characters attempt to pull this party off (confession, my brothers and I threw parties all the time!). 

The story includes a glossary. Furthermore, unfamiliar "critical" words are also footnoted so students don't skip a beat. If you using this a quick class read, then great! You will definitely benefit from the student activities included in the packet.  It entails several activities for deeper engagement such as: 

  • Pre-reading questions 
  • Post-comprehension questions 
  • Preterite v.s. Imperfect activity 
  • Planning the perfect party activity 

                    A new short story for Spanish 2+. Activities included!

Mi abuelita tiene un móvil inteligente

"Mi abuelita tiene un móvil inteligente" is a short story for Spanish 2+ (although, I used this at the end of Spanish 1). This short story can be read individually as part of Free Voluntary Reading, or collectively as a whole classroom as the questions are included. I used this story as part of my technology unit. It includes many relevant terms that students used today to interact with technology such as "descargar una aplicación”, “subir una foto al Instagram”, “chatear con los amigos”, etc. Many of the words are naturally embedded into the context of the story and repeated.

Click here to check out two-chapter preview 

This resource included: 
1. Story " Mi abuelita tiene un móvil inteligente" 
2. Four sets of chapter questions- there are 4 chapters 
3. Technology Vocabulary list with information gap activity 
4. Pre-reading questions and writing activity 

Topics: Technology, Family Relationships, Online activities, Love 
Grammar: Preterite, Imperfect, Affirmative Commands 

Editable version of story included

Synopsis: Sara enjoys hanging out with her crazy "Primos" and “Tíos" at their weekly “Reunión” at "La casa de abuela.” From listening to her crazy aunt's tales about the adventures of internet dating to her grandmother's funny jokes (comprehensible & appropriate), she wouldn't want to be anywhere else on Sunday. However, this Sunday is super special because it is her grandmother's birthday, and Sara has just made her day by buying her a smart phone. While Sara teaches her “abuelita” how to use the smart phone, her grandmother discovers some “creative uses” for her new smart phone. Abuela Irma realizes even at 75 years old, her best years are ahead of her!

Me muero por María 

 TPRS/CI story with a glossary and free teacher's manual included. Me muero por María- is Short Story for Spanish 2+ (even Spanish 1 novice-mid). It features ample dialogue and comedic relief that will entertain your class while they acquire vocabulary and pick up idiomatic expressions.  Check out the 3 chapter preview, it is only the beginning! 

The big dance is just two weeks ago and Patricio is freaking out. He does not have a date to the party. All the girls are either taken, or have had some little run-ins with the “law.” He sets his sights on María, the girl he is dying to go on a date with. But he has a problem: he is awfully shy. “Entre la espada y la pared,” he turns to the only two people who can help him: his best friend Rodrigo, el doctor del amor, and his mom! Needless to say that their philosophies on relationships, widely differ, which puts our friend Patricio in a bind. However, things take an interesting turn when his buddy and “wing-man” “inadvertently” spills the beans on Patricio’s crush; now Patricio has to “close the deal.” Patricio embarks on uncharted territory and runs into other “unforeseen obstacles” in trying to get a date with María.  In a weird twist of events, he gets the surprise of his life, where the expression “Me muero por María” becomes almost literal!

Structures: 90% present tense 
Some present progressive (to keep action going) 
Many stem-changing verb combinations- yo quiero hablar, tú puedes comer, etc. 

Check out my novel's page for more exciting funny, creative, comprehensible short stories;  your students will be begging for more!
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