Hablando se entiende la gente :Cultivating Spontaneous Conversation in the WL Classroom

How Do We Encourage Spontaneous Speaking in the WL Classroom? Like this! 

  was thoroughly intrigued by Amy Lenord's post on The Power of Just Talking. Not only because I agree that it is a good practice, but speaking is the "core" of what we do in this "labor of love." We give copious amounts of input, engage students in a wide range of language-building activities so that they can speak, and do it somewhat naturally. However, sometimes as language teachers, we over think things. I certainly do. Amy's blog post The Power of Just Talking resonated with me and challenged me to think more about this 'gift" that students already have. And don't worry about them making errors- we learn from our failures, and we fail forward. 

Spontaneous Speaking and the Creative Student 

Spontaneous speaking has always been at the forefront of my teaching philosophy, but not for pedagogical reasons necessarily. I've just always been interested in what students had to say, and their thinking on a particular subject. With the increased social climate of their lives, this generation is even more wired to speak, share their stories, even if they have not had sufficient input to do so; they will "make do" and this is where the creative power of using language comes into play. I have had many a conversation in class where students have coined new phrases, or have said words that they did not know they knew; in part because of the input residue on their brains, also intuitive knowledge of Spanish/English cognates. Some kids have told me "it just sounded right." After conversations like this, their confidence soars because they are using their building blocks to communicate. Sometimes we stop short of allowing this practice because we think that students need more input, but sometimes we have to allow them to utilize the input they have (use it or lose it) and creatively navigate the world of language.  

In the book The Language Teacher Toolkit, Gianfranco Conti and Steve Smith provide several guidelines and practices on facilitating spontaneous talk in the classroom. I really appreciate their advice, because a few years ago, I'd walk into the class ask the same questions...¿Cómo están? Cuenta algo interesante de tu día? etc, which was pretty spontaneous, but BORING after a while. Those questions the first few days, are great, but every day, Sra. Quintero?  One of the obvious pieces of advice Conti and Smith suggest is to make sure that: 

  • students having enough vocabulary, a combination of nouns and verbs to hold a conversation. 
Having something to "unload" is key. We want to make sure students have had enough input, but we don't have to give them all the input in the world for them to "flex their muscles." This is where we as language teachers have to let go and let the kids. The spontaneous talk prompts (spontaneous for them, not us) should be suited to their level, connected to what they already know. This is honoring the great body of L2 research on the matter. However, it can be a bit challenging (input+1) to push them just a tad. This challenge automatically puts them at the top of the Bloom's pyramid because they are creating, synthesizing and engaged in meaning-making, which is a feat in and of itself. Perhaps, in novice-low context, this may not work, but as novice-mid and beyond should be able to handle a conversation at their level. 
For my novice-low to mid students, we are currently working on describing ourselves and others, after that we will learn classroom vocabulary, learning about family, etc. Below are some basic prompts to get them talking. This can be done in a spontaneous manner.  

¿Quién en tu familia es muy gracioso? 

¿Cuál es tu aplicación favorita? 

¿Cuáles son los app que necesitas todos dlos días...tu vida no puede funcionar sin el app? (o aplicación).

Describe tu personal ideal (we read this short story and students learned "novio")

¿Qué materiales necesitas para la clase de español 

¿Cuál es tu libro favorito? menciona dos personajes

¿Qué libro lees ahora en la clase de inglés? Describe las personas

¿Cuál es tu programa favorito o serie favorita de television? 

Canta "Feliz Cumpleaños" a tu compañero. 

Preséntate a tu compañero 

¿Quiénes son las personas en tu familia? 

Menciona los cumpleaños de tres personas

Di los primeros seis meses del años (for fun)

These are just a few questions to get them talking!

I also really loved the activities recommended by Conti and Smith. Among them are: 

  • Playing "Just a minute." Give students a topic and they have to say everything they can about the topic in one minute. With novice-low-mid, I'd probably do 10-20 seconds. But I love this activity because students can dig deep. I always allow them to use their notebooks in the formative stages, and I have the classroom walls outfitted with vocabulary. Check out Amy's Expresate Wall Hangers. 
  • Pair guessed work. Students write down words and the other person guesses what they did over the weekend. This would be perfect for Spanish 2+
  • Providing students with literacy mats- I called these "Fluency Tables" in my class, and they are awesome.
Modeling How to Speak Spontaneously in Class 
It is not a bad idea to show students how to talk spontaneously. I think modeling it a few times could allow them to see that they are the missing ingredient. Their creativity is what we crave, and for teachers, we this is good feedback for us to adjust instruction to meet additional needs that arise. 

Having key phrases on the wall on a Literacy Mat would empower students and generate to some degree automaticity. 

Another great idea, which makes me so glad I bought this amazing book, is "hooking" students at the door. Smith suggested having a whiteboard a key phrase or word. I may be deviating from the original idea, but you could also include a quote, a picture, as students come in, and when that bell rings, start a conversation about the element.  I have also used these task cards and situational activities in Spanish class. They are from TPT teacher authors: 

My big takeaways, and adding "mi granito."

To summarize it all and give teachers some suggestions that they can easily incorporate in the class, see the points below: 

 A. Low-hanging fruit
 As Amy Lenord pointed out in her blog post The Power of Just Talking, she started the conversation just by asking about their week, their classes, etc. With the input that students have been provided over the past months and years, these questions tapped into to their ability, as well as their adolescent need to express themselves. Start small and scale. 

 B. Use engaging images and videos 
In the IB world, we discuss Global Contexts with students. These are ideas for framing the global connection to the curriculum. In workshops, I usually show teachers pictures and have them guess the global context. However, this could be a great activity overall for students. Showing them a "meaty" picture or video where speaking is utterly irresistible! I did this with an English video with Spanish subtitles. The language is not really important as the content transcends language. This video is part of my "Identity Unit."  

  C. Using writing as a catalyst for speaking 
Using writing as a catalyst for speaking could also be a good way to involve students. It is not totally spontaneous, but they get a few minutes to think and then speak. I use quotes or statement to get students thinking. For my unit on Relationships, I always post the question "should students younger than 16 be allowed to date?" Boy, did I get an avalanche of opinions!

How do you engage students in spontaneous conversation? Let us know!

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 very 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 veinte 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!

 What a "novel" idea! Check out the new novels for Spanish class!

Click here: https://goo.gl/JsKwM7

TPT Store!

Click here: http://bit.ly/2pAnP33

Boost your students' fluency with These TPRS-Friendly Novels and Short Stories for Spanish Class!

 Comprehensible Student Literature in Spanish (& French)Resource Page 

Looking for student-friendly novels and/or short stories for Spanish (or French) class? TPRS/CI novels are perfect for language learners as they couple the principles of language acquisition (repetition/compelling storylines) with students' interest. 
We've got readers for all levels of Spanish. Check out the selection below! Looking to order some readers for class? See the catalog at the end of the page!

Spanish 1+

La clase de confesiones: Students will see themselves reflected in this story! 
"La clase de confesiones" is the perfect novel for your Spanish level 1 students or review for Spanish 2. With several illustrations, this story is told mostly in the present tense and features essential vocabulary for discussing, school, classes, teachers, and of course, el amor! Your students will see themselves reflected immediately in this classroom drama. They will empathize with Carlos as they come along on his crazy adventure! Best of all, the story has only 130 new words such as common words or phrases such as le gusta, tiene que mirar, busca, quiere, etc.  Most of the vocabulary words are cognates so that students don't miss a beat! 

Why use this novel is class? Here are a few reasons! 
  • A compelling and unforgettable storyline
  • Relatable characters  
  • High-frequency vocabulary
  • Present tense verbs
  • Classroom vocabulary 
  • Teacher/student dynamic (and interesting banter)
  • The timeless story of a classroom crush... gone awry
  • Good old fashion lines... some from your favorite teachers! 
  • The adventure continues in the sequel! 

What is this novel about? 

Carlos hates Spanish class with a passion but finds the will to survive when he lays eyes on Jessica. She is the reason he "tolerates" his boring class. However, his secret crush is compromised when his teacher decides to “shake things up a bit” in class. A simple writing assignment turns out to be a lethal injection to his social life and by extension his chances with Jessica. First, his nosy teacher tries to “set him up with Jessica,” this plan immediately backfires. Then, the unthinkable happens, and Carlos is stunned. This turns into one of the most embarrassing moments in his life. But all is not lost. Carlos invites you to come along on this adventure into "La clase de confesiones" where…" todos tienen una confesión," even the teacher! 

Teacher's Manual on TPT
60+ Activities $15
Author's note: This novel pairs well with a school unit as most of the vocabulary surround the school and the classroom environment, and "classroom crushes" all students have them! This story was originally written to recycle vocabulary associated with school supplies in addition to basic Spanish verbs in different forms. Therefore you will see a lot of vocabulary words tastefully repeated (which is good for acquisition). The unique word count is around 130.  My students loved it (and so did many others). They demanded I write a part 2 (you will see why at the end), and I obliged.

See purchasing options at the foot of the page. Also, check out our short story resource center! Your students won't be disappointed, and neither will you! 

The confessions don't stop there, part 2 is chock full of even more confessions... the best part, you don't even have to read the first book!

The second book in the series can be read as stand-alone...saving the best for last!

¡Pobrecito!...Las aventuras continurán en la segunda parte. 

Carlos is having a bad day, and it's about to get worse. He leaves Spanish class utterly embarrassed.  He had no idea that the teacher was going to partner him up with Jessica, the girl he actually writes about in his class essay. Adding insult to injur
y, the teacher reads his essay in front of the class, even the mean-spirited things he wrote about his teacher. After running into a few more problems in math class, he is faced with the big showdown in the lunchroom. Now, Carlos is between *"la espada y la pared." However, a short story in Spanish class may hold the key to all of his problems, and may ultimately lead to his biggest confession of all. Find out in part 2! 

French Teachers, we've got you covered as well! The "Confessions" series is also in French! 

La classe des confessions 

The French Level 1+ novel, "La classe des confessions" (part 1) is written almost entirely in the present tense. It is the perfect novel for reviewing school vocabulary, classes, relationships, basic French I structures in the Target Language, and, of course "l'amour." Sprinkled with authentic and witty expressions, students will see themselves in the story, as well as their teachers! Although this book is part of a series (2 books), book 1 is a standalone novel...but students would want to read part 2: Le Beau Mensonge!  

Synopsis: Charles hates French class with a passion but finds the will to survive when he lays eyes on Justine. She is the reason he "tolerates" his boring class. However, his secret crush is compromised when his teacher decides to "shake things up a bit" in class. A simple writing assignment turns out to be a lethal injection to his social life and by extension his chances with Justine. First, his nosy teacher tries to "set him up with Justine," this plan immediately backfires. Then, the unthinkable happens and Charles is stunned. This turns into one of the most embarrassing moments in his life. Charles invites you to come along on this adventure into "La classe des confessions" where everyone has a confession, even the teacher!

Feliz Cumpleaños
Spanish 1+

"Feliz Cumpleaños" is the classic bully story with a twist. Esteban just can't get a break, even on his birthday! From the forgetful teacher in class, to the bully who takes his lunch, he is at his wit's end. Although his day starts to brighten when a good friend and love interest wish him "happy birthday," he is still subject to Roberto's (the bully) attacks. When Cristina is thrown into the mix, well, things get more complicated. Esteban has an uphill battle and must muster the courage to stand up for himself, on his birthday! 

What are the themes this novel highlights? 

In addition to the high-frequency vocabulary, and relatable storyline, this novel could interest students as it highlights: 
  • Friendships 
  • Relationships 
  • Bullying 
  • Confidence (gaining confidence)
  • Kindness 
  • Family Ties
  • Birthday celebrations
(Recommended Levels: FVR (all level), 5th-10 grade). 
This story is perfect for Spanish I Novice-mid students as the language includes mostly -ar verbs and is written in the present tense. The story is organized into 4 short chapters. Vocabulary is footnoted in addition to being integrated into the pre-reading vocabulary and grammar activities. My class really enjoyed this story of the “underdog” student who ultimately stands up for himself. Although a very simple story, there are a few twists and turns that will grab students and endear them to Esteban. 

                                          Spanish Level 2+ 

                              "Cómo Salir de la Zona de Amigos

Most of your students will be able to relate to this story. What happens when you start developing feelings for your best friend? "Cómo Salir de la Zona de Amigos," may just have the answer! 

#funny #exciting #compelling #crazy #didhejustdothat?? #ohyeshedid!

We’ve all been there. We have an amazing friend, who knows everything about us. We do everything together. We even finish each other’s sentences. It’s crazy! Then, one day, while harmlessly hanging out and laughing at each other’s jokes, something shifts. Our eyes glisten and our heart jumps. We are helplessly swept away by the wave of attraction. Before we know it, we are head over heels in love, but hopelessly stuck in the friend zone! Lena and Tristan can definitely relate! They are best friends, video game enthusiasts, and running buddies who explore the beautiful city of Bogotá, Colombia. But when their relationship starts to change, they realize that are in uncharted waters. They’d make the perfect pair but must fight a few uphill battles. Will their lifelong friendship help or hinder any chance of romance? Find out in "Cómo Salir de la Zona de Amigos"…you may learn a few things!

What are the themes this novel highlights? 

In addition to the high-frequency vocabulary, and relatable storyline, this novel could interest students as it highlights: 
  • Friendships 
  • Unrequited Love
  • Conflicted Relationships
  • Friendzone
  • Coming of Age 
  • Dealing with a range of emotions 
  • Health and Wellness

The best way to getting out the friend zone is to never get in! -A.C. Quintero 

Spanish Level 3+ 
      El Último Viaje

Students love stories where social and moral conflicts abound, this is one such story. This engaging story will grab your students from the very first page. They will be on the edge of their seats as they live through the shoes of a young model who has the world on her shoulders. El Último Viaje is based on true events and is a story that teaches about decisions, forgiveness, and hope. 

 As a design student, Valeria wants to play an intricate part of the vibrant, colorful, international fashion, and modeling industry in Medellín, Colombia. Her beauty is her passport, and her connections catapult to new heights. Adrenaline, ambition, and adventure drive her thirst for success. As glitz and glam steal her heart, her core values are challenged. Life takes some unexpected turns, and Valeria encounters detours that lead to different paths. Each path has its own set of risks. There comes a time where we each have to choose our own destiny. How will Valeria choose?

What are the themes this novel highlights? 

In addition to the high-frequency vocabulary, and relatable storyline, this novel could interest students as it highlights: 
  • The history and some aspects of the culture of Colombia 
  • The artwork of Fernando Botero 
  • Fashion and Modeling Culture of Medellín
  • A meaty moral and social conflict 
  • Travel
  • Relationships 
  • Crime (related to the main plot). 

Fame and fortune as a price that few of us should be willing to pay...

*This novel is part of VocesDigital by Teacher's Discovery and A.C. Quintero. 

Diego Ojeda (Bogotá) and Diego Cuadros (Medellín) made significant contributions to the cultural elements highlighted in the story. 

               El Escape 

Get ready for adventure with a cautionary twist! 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 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 escape the situation, alive. 

El Escape is an action-packed novel from beginning to end. The main character and his friends record something that they should not have, and now they are on the run! Lots of twists and turns. Your girls will be intrigued, but your boys will love this story!

*There is a little bit of violence (the scene observed by the main characters).

Federico and his friends can run, but can they outsmart the bad guys? Find out in El Escape

Series for Language Learners 

Warning, your students won't want to put these book down! #Readresponsibly

Las Apariencias Engañan

We have all heard the old adage “If you play with fire, you'll get burned.” Well, some teenagers like to test the flames. Camilo is one of them. He has been masquerading as a model young man. However, his act can only last so long. His mask starts to crack, his foundation crumbles, and the fire he has played with begins to burn. However, he's not the only one entangled in a web of lies and his secret is only the tip of the iceberg. Once inside the halls of his home, we discover a far greater mystery that has haunted the town for years. As the truth comes closing in, the pressure mounts and Camilo must decide which path to take. This compelling story attests to the timeless truth that things are never what they seem, or "Las Apariencias Engañan."

Your students may hate Camilo, but they'll LOVE THE novel! This novel is...

  • Intriguing 
  • Suspenseful
  • Mysterious 
  • Comprehensible
  • Ripe with teen drama 
If this novel is not enough..check out the sequel below. All the secrets you learn about in Las Apariencias Engañan, start marching out the closet one by one.

El Armario 
(Skeletons in the Closet)

El Armario is the sequel "Las Apariencias engañan."However, it can be read as a standalone novel. All the critical aspects of part 1 were skillfully interwoven into the novel. But, we shouldn't deprive students of all the juicy drama of part 1! Liliana has bitten off more than she can chew and her secret life has spiraled out of control.   Liliana, however, is far from being the sole keeper of bones: someone has a secret darker than hers. While at a “friend’s” house, Liliana stumbles upon perplexing discoveries...the kind for which people may kill. Time is running out and Liliana must make a decision. For every decision, there is a trail of consequences. Liliana will soon discover that everyone’s closet holds skeletons…but some bones are bigger than others! 


Spanish and French Comprehensible Readers 
Catalog 2019 

Spanish 1/2 Comprehensible Readers 

La clase de confesiones
1. Individual Readers on Amazon
2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
3. Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
4. Purchase from Carlex.com 
5. Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual  
6. "La clase de confesiones" Teacher's Manual 

La classe des confessions
1. Individual Readers on Amazon
2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
3. Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
4. Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual  
5. "La classe de confessions" Free Teaching Materials.
6. Watch Cecile teach this novel to class! 

La bella mentira 
1. Individual Readers on Amazon 
2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
3. Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
4.  Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual  
5. "La bella mentira" Teacher's Guide

El Beau Mensonge
1. Individual Readers on Amazon 
2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
3. Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
4.  Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual  
5. "El Beau Mensonge" Student Activities (Coming soon). 

Feliz Cumpleaños 

Spanish Comprehensible Readers for Level 2+ 

Cómo Salir de la Zona de Amigos 
 1. Individual Readers on Amazon 
 2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
 3Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
 4.  Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual  
 5. "Cómo Salir de la Zona de Amigos" Student Activities 

 Spanish Comprehensible Readers for Level 3+ 

El Escape 
 1. Individual Readers on Amazon 
 2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
 3Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
 4.  Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual  
 5. "El Escape" Teaching Materials 

Las Apariencias Engañan 
 1. Individual Readers on Amazon 
 2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
 3Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
 4.  Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual  
 5. "Las Apariencias Engañan" Student Activities 

El Armario 
 1. Individual Readers on Amazon 
 2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
 3Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
 4.  Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual  
 5. "El Armario" Teaching Materials 

El Último Viaje 
1. Individual Readers on Amazon 
 2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
 3Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
 4.  Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual  

Las Sombras 

 1. Individual Readers on Amazon (Coming soon!)
 2. Purchase from Brycehedstrom.com 
  3Purchase from FluencyMatters.com 
 4.  Bundled Readers and Teacher's Manual