How to Incorporate Culture in Your Spanish Classroom

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 / Leave a Comment
How to Incorporate Culture in Your Spanish Classroom
We all know that culture is an important part of language learning, but we often don't spend as much time as we should teaching our students about other cultures.  

Let's be honest, most of the time, the culture that accompanies our textbooks is pretty weak, and we're so busy creating lesson plans for the basics of language learning, that we run out of time for culture.

You know you need to add more culture to your classes if:

A.  Your students can't name 10 Spanish speaking countries (my favorite answers are:  Germany, Japan, the U.S., and Europe).

B.  Your students are tired of learning grammar and verbs.

C.  Most of your students haven't had the opportunity to travel outside your town or state.

D.  Your students constantly say, "Why do we have to learn Spanish?  I'm never going to use it."

Let culture inspire your students to learn more Spanish so they can:  

* compete in a global economy
* be sensitive and welcoming to community members from other countries
* make new Hispanic friends
* travel to beautiful places
* learn a different perspective

At the very least, commit to spending 15-30 minutes every week on culture. Here are 15 ways to incorporate culture into your Spanish classes this year.

1.  Use free Hispanic nationality partners sheet to ensure that students work with a variety of partners throughout the year.
Bonus:  This will help them learn all the Spanish-speaking countries.

2.  Post interesting facts and colorful photos from a different Hispanic country every few weeks.

3.  Create a language cafe to share authentic food and conversation.

4.  Show short video clips from all the Hispanic countries to showcase culture.  Here are a few of my favorites:
Making Instruments from Recycled Garbage, 4 min. - In Spanish.  
Using garbage from the slums to create beautiful music.

Biblioburro, 5 min. - In Spanish with English subtitles.  
A man brings books on his burro to children in Colombian communities.  

5.  Have students look for evidence of culture in their daily lives.  
Give them this sheet listing the 21 Hispanic countries.  Whenever they find something or someone from a Hispanic country, they color the country and write what they found.  

6.  Read books that reference Hispanic culture.  
One of my favorites for juniors and seniors is "Cuentos con sazón".  Students can read the whole book or just a chapter or two.  

It's the story of a family reunion where all the relatives take turns describing their childhood adventures in various countries.  Each chapter talks about authentic food, some sort of festival and kids who get into a little bit of trouble.  

After reading the book, divide the students into groups and have them write their own chapter, including an adventure where kids get into trouble, an authentic food, and a famous celebration in another country.

7.  Discuss interesting traditions from other countries.
Do your students know about La Tomatina, the tomato throwing festival in Spain?  

Do they know about the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight and wearing a new pair of yellow underwear for New Years?  

Kids are fascinated by this type of stuff!  

Assign a country to each student and have them research and share an interesting tradition with the class.
8.  Every Monday, have students share an article about a Spanish-speaking country.  
Lower level students can bring in articles in English and upper level students can bring in articles in Spanish.  They should be prepared to give a quick summary in Spanish of their articles.  
Here are some great sites to find free articles:
2.  El Mundo
3.  El País
4.  ABC

9.  Post realia in your classroom.
Check out my Spanish Realia Pinterest board to get you started.  Add different realia every few weeks to keep things fresh.

Infografia Esclavo Del #Celular Víctima De Nomofobia @Candidman

10.  Host guest speakers from other countries.
Track down people from Hispanic countries in your community and invite them to class to share their culture.  Encourage them to bring photos, food, and other props.  The speakers may only be able to present to 1-2 classes, so you may wish to invite multiple speakers to cover all your classes.

11.  Read children's biographies about famous Hispanics or read about famous people online.


12.  Share songs that showcase culture.  
El desaparecido by Manu Chao is one of my favorites that is perfect for units on immigration:

13.  Show ads or YouTube clips from Hispanic countries.
It's really interesting to watch ads from other countries - great for comparing and contrasting culture.  

And there are some awesome YouTube channels for culture.  
Just discovered this one, Benshorts Viajes, and found the perfect video for all your high school boys.  

In this video, he mixes 50 of the hottest salsas he can find to create a "Monster Salsa".  Great for a food unit and for learning the word, picante.  I love the faces that he makes when he eats it.  Ha, ha! 

Remember that you can click on the settings wheel (looks like a gear) on the bottom right of the video to change the speed of the dialogue.  If you put him on .75 speed, he actually talks at a normal speed instead of super-fast.  :)

I also love Ruben y el mundo, Canal 2.  He travels to different countries each week, speaks in slow, clear Spanish, and shares interesting tidbits of information.  

14.  Share idioms, funny memes and jokes weekly with your students.

Spanish language humor.  Llamame shirt.

15.  Have your students research and do presentations on their own hobbies in other countries.
If you have a student who loves art, have her do a presentation about a famous museum or Hispanic artist.

If you have a student who likes dance, have her demonstrate salsa, meringue, or flamenco.  

If you have a student who likes soccer, have him talk about a Hispanic soccer team or player.  

I hope that you found a few new ways to incorporate culture in your Spanish class.  I'd love to hear how you teach culture in your class.  Please share your ideas in the comments section.

Get more quality free resources for your Spanish classroom in my Free Resource Library - lots of goodies
 just waiting for you.  

* I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.  This money allows me to continue bringing high quality content to you for free.  

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Must Read Blog Posts for Spanish Teachers

Tuesday, December 26, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Secondary Spanish Space has officially celebrated our 1st birthday! Thank you so much for reading and joining us on this journey. We really appreciate your support and look forward to year two. To wrap up 2017, we would like to share the must read posts of our first year. Hopefully you are enjoying your break, so grab a warm drink, cuddle up and get ready to read our most popular posts so far. 

Must Read Blog Posts for Spanish Teachers

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Quick & Easy Breakfast Ideas for Busy Teachers

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and I never ever skip it. But I don't have time in the morning for a long or involved meal! If you also like to eat breakfast while simultaneously taking attendance, here are some quick and easy ideas to keep you going until lunch time!

1.  Overnight Oats
Confession: I love oatmeal. Love love love.

Overnight oats are insanely easy to make and they are my current #1 go-to breakfast item. All you have to do is mix everything together at night right before bed, and then take it out of the fridge in the morning and it's ready to go! And you can customize it, so you can make a million different flavors.

Prep Time:  5 minutes

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I prefer low fat but any type will work)
  • 1/2 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • toppings:
    • chopped fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, kiwi, peaches, cherries)
    • granola (optional)

How to make it:
1.  Mix the oats, yogurt, milk, and chia seeds in a container. Drizzle the honey on top. Cover it and put it in the fridge for the night.
2.  In the morning, add the chopped fruit and granola. Mix and enjoy!

Pro tip: Buy all of the fruits you want to use (I usually get a container of strawberries, a container of blueberries, and a container of blackberries). Wash all the fruit and chop it all. Put a serving of fruit into sandwich bags and throw them all in the freezer. Pull out one baggie from the freezer each night and put it in the fridge so that the fruit is thawed in the morning for the overnight oats. And voila! Fresh fruit, ready to serve, that will last weeks without going bad.

2.  Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich

These are so easy to make and so super delicious.

Prep Time:  10 minutes
- 1 bagel (sliced sandwich bread, rolls, or English muffins will work just as great)
- 2 small slices of butter
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper
- 1 sausage link (I recommend turkey sausage, but any sausage you prefer will be fine)
- 1 slice of cheese

How to make it:
1.  Slice your bagel (or bread product of choice) and toast it. This isn't required, but you won't regret toasting your bread.
2.  Heat a pan on low heat and throw a slice of butter in there. Wait for it to melt and then fry your egg. Salt and pepper it lightly. I prefer to break the yolk and swirl it around so my fried egg is almost scrambled. Put your cheese slice on the egg in the last minute on the heat so it'll melt.
3.  Set your cheesy fried egg to the side. Toss another slice of butter in the pan. Peel the casing off the sausage link and shape it so it'll fit in your bread (think circular for a bagel, rectangular for sliced bread) while the butter melts. Fry up your sausage until it's cooked through.
4.  Make your sandwich! Enjoy!

3.  Quinoa & Chocolate Chip Muffins
I don't really like quinoa because it tastes like you're eating a field (ew), but it's healthy, so I find ways to mask the gross healthy taste. This recipe uses chocolate chips to mask the taste of quinoa. This recipe comes from Yummy Healthy Easy.

I like to take 2 muffins to work with me and eat them as a late breakfast snack, an early lunch snack, a late lunch snack, a mid-afternoon snack, or a late afternoon snack. Snacking keeps me alive. They're delicious and the quinoa makes them stick with you more than regular muffins.

This recipe makes 15 muffins.

Prep Time:  20 minutes
- 2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa (2/3 cup dry quinoa)
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat flour is fine also)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (or plain Greek yogurt)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to make it:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or spray it with cooking spray.
2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the cooled quinoa, both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips.
3.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, buttermilk, egg, applesauce, and vanilla extract.
4.  Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Divide among muffin cups.
5.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy!

Pro tip 1:  Buttermilk doesn't come in just 1/2 cup quantities. If you want to save the remainder, measure 1 tablespoon into each portion of an ice tray and freeze it. Once frozen, throw the buttermilk ice cubes into a freezer bag and pull them out 1 tablespoon at a time whenever you need buttermilk in a recipe again.

Pro tip 2:  Use an ice cream scoop to portion the batter into the muffin tins.  It keeps every muffin the same uniform size and shape.

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Google Tour-Builder: Virtual Field Trips Your Students Will Love

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 / 1 comment
I don't know about you, but there's not much opportunity for me to take my students on field trips even in our area, let alone internationally. I've always wanted to take my students to a Spanish-speaking country, but with lack of funding, safety concerns, and a bunch of other blockades standing in my way, it's just not possible right now. In the meantime, however, I stumbled upon a fantastic substitute that is free, easy, and, most importantly gets students exploring Spanish-speaking countries from the comfort of our classroom.

Google Tour Builder takes the simplicity of Google Maps and integrates a guided tour.  Basically, you can choose any location, select "stops" for your students to visit, and then supplement the experience they will have "walking" around in Google Streetview with photos, images, and videos that you select. It's simple, purposeful, and eye-opening.  Also, it's perfect for those school days where you need an activity to balance your lesson plans or before breaks when it's insane to try and actually "teach," but you still want your students to learn.  To get to Street View, you basically drag the little yellow man icon to the spot you want to visit. I'm a completely visual learning, so I made a quick tutorial video explaining how to use Street View withing Google Tour Builder:

All your students need is access to technology (tablets, computers, etc.) and a free Google account and they're on their way! You can easily create your own tour or you could try out the Google Tour Builder I created of the Zócalo area in Mexico City.  My 7th students happily "wandered" the streets of Mexico City for two days, visited the inside of Mexico City Cathedral, and shopped around the Ciudadela market. I provided students a guiding handout with questions about the videos I added to the tour and for them to record what they saw, but that's not at all necessary if you want to let your kids simply explore.  Tours you create can be as long you'd like or can short, one-day lessons. I found that my students' curiosity and desire to digitally explore usually means that Tour Builder activities take two days, but I think it's time very well-spent.

Here are 5 reasons I love Google Tour Builder:

1. Students see a world different than their own

I'm pretty sure that most language teachers can look back on their lives and agree that the experience that changed us the most was traveling the world and seeing other places and people. When students enter StreetView in Google Tour Builder, they will be able to walk the streets and see people and how they live. Experiencing cultural similarities and differences will drive students' learning.  My students had so much fun seeing how different the stores were in Mexico City, looking at architecture, seeing people sitting around in plazas, and just generally seeing how different life can be in other countries.

2. Teachers can customize the tour to their learning objectives

No matter what your students are learning, there's a tour for that.  If you are on a city or geographic unit, the applications are pretty obvious, but you could potentially gear your tour toward a variety of thematic topics.  Next month, I plan on having my students "visit" schools in a several different countries in Latin America so they can compare them to their own educational experiences. If you want your students to learn about food, have them check out street foods around different Spanish speaking countries. If you're on a unit about housing, check out different types of places people live.

3. Teachers can create a virtual scavenger hunt

Another really proficiency-based implementation I'm planning for unit I teach in the Spring is based around the new NCSSFL Intercultural Can Do Statements.  One of the statements is "I can identify specific locations to have a meal, purchase a ticket, or buy something that I need."  I plan on giving students a to-do shopping/eating list and then gearing a tour around having students use Google Tour Builder to locate places to complete the scavenger hunt. I know my students would love this of lesson and they'd be motivated to complete the scavenger hunt, plus I could totally trick them into learning.

4. Students can create their own tour

Go student-centered and let your students create a tour. You could have your students plan a vacation to a different Spanish-speaking country or create a day itinerary for a day in Sevilla including where to eat, what landmarks to visit, and where to stay.  Tons of museums allow you to "visit" and "wander" their galleries using Google Streetview. There's so many possibilities for this!  All of these ideas would perfect hit the new Interculturality Can Do Statements.

5. Students develop map skills

Let's be honest, kids today will have no idea how to navigate even their own cities without the use of a map app.  In an ideal world, we would be helping students to have a sense of direction and know the difference between north and south, but I would honestly just be happy to see kids know how the basics to use a digital map and have a concept of where a country is located.  Plus, we'd be helping out our social studies colleagues who have to teach map-reading skills as part of their curriculum.

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Fabulous Gifts for Fabulous Spanish Teachers

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Need gift ideas for an amazing Spanish teacher in your life? The Spanish teachers of Secondary Spanish Space are here to help! We have compiled a list of items we can't live without as teachers and must-have teaching resources every Spanish teacher needs! Show your favorite Spanish teacher some love with these teacher-tested and teacher-approved presents. Click the links for more information on each item and happy shopping!

1. MINI-CROCKPOT: Allison of Mis Clases Locas swears by her mini-Crockpot for teacher lunches! She plugs it in when she gets to school in the morning and has perfectly warm food by lunchtime! So smart! ($24.99)

2. MÚSICA MIÉRCOLES BUNDLE: Allison also recommends her Música Miércoles GROWING BUNDLE. "These music bell ringers for Spanish class will start your class with a bang! The culture-filled songs can be adapted for all levels including Middle School Exploratory Spanish, Spanish I, Spanish II, Spanish III, and Spanish IV as a classroom management routine. In my class Música miércoles is the students' favorite day of the week!" she says. ($18)

3. WATER BOTTLE: Jen of Spanish with Sra. Shaw loves her stainless water bottle that she picked up at Target! She says, "My school is ancient and the pipes are super old and I don't trust the water there. Also, it's important to stay hydrated so I don't get sick. I like to put a drop of essential oils in my water,".  It's 32 ounces and insulated so you know that water is going to stay cold! ($34.99)

4. VOCABULARY SUB PLAN: Jen recommends her versatile Spanish Vocabulary Activities SUB PLAN for every Spanish teacher because it works with any unit and is literally NO PREP! My two favorite words after Target and sale! Her vocabulary activities make the perfect emergency sub plan and we all know every teacher needs one of those on hand at all times for those unexpected days off! ($3.25)

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The Big List of Technology Resources for Spanish Class

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 / 5 comments
I've talked with Spanish teachers far and wide to compile this BIG list of technology resources for secondary Spanish class. I hope you enjoy taking a look at the list, and that you give some new tech resources a try this school year. If we missed something, please comment below and I'll update this post to include your resource and/or experience!

As you read through the list below, click on the orange link to access the technology resource referenced. I've categorized the list in a way that makes sense to me, but you'll surely note that many of the tech resources listed have multiple uses.

Tech for Authentic Spanish Resources & Comprehensible Input

Google Maps (website; free; any level Spanish): So many possibilities with Google Maps! I love Holly from Throw out your Textbook's discussion of her Virtual Walking Tours for Spanish Class with Google Maps, to give you one idea of how it can be used. For an added twist, check out  ideas for how to use Google Tour Builder in Spanish class from Secondary Spanish Space's very own Jen.

News ELA (website; free and paid versions; any level Spanish): This website gives you access to lots of VERY current news articles in simple Spanish. There is a paid version but also many articles are available for free. Get yourself a login for free and then click on the Spanish topic. Find an article of interest, and you can select the lexicon level to differentiate the reading difficulty. Yes, that means you can use the same article topic with a first year class and a third year class! Or group students within a class by ability level to read at their level, then come together as a class to engage with the article ideas. There is a large variety of articles to chose from, including topics relating to science, technology, politics, social issues, arts, and more.

News in Slow Spanish (website; free and paid versions; intermediate and advanced level Spanish): Check out their weekly news summaries. Students can listen to and follow along with the written transcript.

Radio Ambulante (podcast; free; intermediate and advanced level Spanish): Subscribe to this free NPR podcast for authentic narrative stories from Latin America. It is 100% in Spanish. This resource would be ideal for AP level courses and can prompt great discussions.

Rockalingua (website; paid, but 1 week free trial available; any level Spanish): This site includes music, videos, games, comics, and more for Spanish learners. While there is a paid subscription, they also offer many free resources that you might like. To get an idea, check out this free set of learning materials on ¿Qué hora es? The resources are all pretty engaging.

Sr. Wooly Pro (website; paid; beginning and intermediate level Spanish): If you still haven't seen the amazingness of Billy la Bufanda, you're seriously missing out. Sr. Wooly is a former Spanish teacher who creates super fun and comprehensible videos and graphic novel stories that are appropriate and engaging for secondary students. Secondary Spanish Spaces very own Allison is one of his biggest fans and we can see why!

Univisión App (app; free; any level Spanish): This Spanish news app is an amazing authentic resource, with content that can engage all sorts of student interests (sports, entertainment, current events, etc.). See this post from Spanish Plans about how he uses the free app with his classes. 

Virtual Reality with Google Expeditions (app; free; any level Spanish): Download the app and get your class a few VR viewers (consider DodoCase viewers, which are compatible with any cell phone brand or size) and let your students explore the Spanish speaking world and people through Google Expeditions. This article about Erika Libel's experience using VR in her Idaho Spanish classroom helped me wrap my head around just how VR would work logistically in a secondary Spanish class. In the article, she explains, "As a Spanish educator, I use virtual reality and other tools and applications to provide second language learners with the opportunity to go beyond the classroom into a global setting to experience other cultures and ways of thinking" (Erika Liebel). For a few more concrete ideas, this article about 4 Ways to Use VR Apps in the Classroom is helpful. With Google's VR app, Google Expeditions, students can "visit" the Spanish speaking places you are studying in class, through virtual field trips. With the NYT VR app, students can "meet" Spanish speakers from around the world, listen to their stories, see their worlds, and understand other cultures and people in a more complex way.

YouTube (website and app; free; any level Spanish): YouTube is an amazing source of sooooooo many authentic videos and videos for comprehensible input. Show your students a music video, a TV commercial, a movie or TV show clip, a cartoon, a silly song. Lately we love Bomba Estereo's Soy Yo and Internacionales. The possibilities are endless with YouTube.

Tech for Supporting Students' Spanish Pronunciation (website; free; any level Spanish): is a pronunciation dictionary. Students can type in a Spanish word and heard it pronounced by a real person from the Spanish speaking world.

Tech for Students' Collaborative Learning

Google Docs (website and app; free; any level Spanish): Google docs lets students collaborate on projects and writing together in one shared space. I especially love the "view version history" feature of Google Docs. It's located right under the "file" menu and is a great way to see which students have contributed what content to a Google doc over the course of a project. Students do need to sign up for a Google account in order to access Google docs.

Padlet (website and app; free and paid version called"Padlet Jetpack"; any level): Students can visually display their notes, ideas, or projects on the Padlet interface, sharing images, written content, video, audio, etc. Padlet makes it very easy to collaborate with a team on a project or for your whole class to share ideas together simultaneously in a very visual way.

Slack (website and app; free; any level): This is a workspace where student teams can converse and store their ideas. It could also be used as a whole class space to communicate. Some students are reluctant to raise their hands or speak aloud in class, but may prefer to submit written comments during a class discussion in Slack's workspace. Lots of possibilities here!

VoiceThread (website; free; any level): This site allows students to participate in a virtual discussion board via voice recording, video, or written response. Students share a post in the target language and can then respond to others posts via their medium of choice. I love that it gives students the option to chose the way in which they would like to respond. Virtual discussion boards like this are becoming more and more prevalent in university courses, so working with a platform like this at the secondary level is a great way to prepare students for what they'll see at university. Flipgrid is another option that offers similar features.

Tech for Assessments


There are a number of electronic quiz platforms out there. Here are a few that Spanish teachers tell me they are loving. See this discussion for a comparison of the pros and cons of some of them.

Quizlet and Quizlet Live (website, app, free and paid version, any level): Quizlet is a fast paced quiz game that students can play on their cell phones or other electronic devices. Sign up for a free trial. Most teachers I know seem happy with the free version, but if you want more capabilities, you can always upgrade to the paid version. 

See Jen's post on how she uses Quizlet Live with her middle schoolers.  Also, Mr. Peto has a discussion of how to use quizlet for reading activities, so it is more than just vocabulary testing. Other resources with similar applications include KahootQuizizzPlickers, and Socrative. Socrative is a little different than the others because of part it's data visualization, especially if you opt for the paid version.

Google voice (app, website, free, any level): Going beyond quiz softwares, let's think about other formative assessments. Exit slips are always a favorite, right? Well, you can make your exit slips paperless with Google voice, which allows students to text in answers as their exit slips, using their own cell phones or other devices. 


Seesaw (website, free and paid versions, any level): Students create digital portfolios using this site. This is such an excellent resource as many of us are going more towards proficiency approaches in our teaching. Creating a portfolio can be a great way for students to showcase their language abilities in a holistic fashion, rather than on a one-shot test type assessment.

Recording Student's Voices

Audacity: This is a free digital audio editor and recorder. Provide students with a list of questions in the target language and have them record their responses then submit them as MP3 files via Dropbox. This makes grading speaking assessments so much quicker and easier. You could also use this software to have students record audio diaries or audio messages that they send to a classmate and then respond back and forth.

Vocaroo: Like Audacity, this is another free software to record and share audio recordings. 

Students' cell phones: Most cell phones have recording capabilities. This is option is perfect for BYOD environments and so easy.

Creative Expression (website; free; any level): Students can use this fun website to create digital visualizations of a story. Have students design their own comics complete with speech bubbles for their characters. Or have students design a story without any text and then exchange with a classmate who then narrates their partner's story. A similar website is, where students can write and narrate stories.

Canva (website and app; free and paid versions; any level): Canva lets students digitally design posters or other social media images in a simple, intuitive way. There are tons of preset design templates and images that students can pick from. They then just add the words!

Poster My Wall: Like Canva, this is a website where students can design a very professional looking digital poster or infographic using present templates.

For even more, check out this very thorough List of Tech Creation Tools from Common Sense Education.

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5 Ways to Get Your Students Speaking in Spanish

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 / 4 comments

5 Guaranteed Ways to Get Your Students Speaking in Spanish

What is the single most important thing that you can do to help your students communicate more effectively in Spanish this year??  

Get them to speak more Spanish in class!  

Believe me, I know how hard this is!  If you're a language teacher, chances are, one of these situations has happened to you.

* Students start a partner activity and you're working with one pair, but hear the other pairs speaking mostly in English. 
* Students whisper to each other in English while you're teaching.
* As soon as your students finish a structured activity, they immediately revert back to English.

As language teachers, this is probably one of our biggest frustrations, right?  

Never fear, here are 5 tried and true strategies to help combat the English invasion in your classroom.

1.  The One Word Method
Write one word on the board in Spanish (try to make it a really long word to start).  Personally, I like to use the Spanish speaking countries and capitals, so I start with Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.  Each time a student speaks English in class, erase a letter.  If the class has any letters left at the end of the period, give them some small reward (an extra point on a quiz, a night without homework, etc.).

If they have lost all their letters, they don't get the reward.  As they get better, use shorter and shorter words and eventually, wean them off of the system all together.

Variation:  If you aren't speaking all in the target language, write the word for yourself on the board.  Each time you speak in English they get to remove a letter.  (Sometimes, we're part of the problem, too).

2.  The Class Competition Method
Tell students that you will be having a competition between all of your classes.  Each time someone speaks English, write a mark next to their class on the board.  The class that has the least checks at the end of the week (or end of the day), gets a small reward.

3.  Speaking Beans
Each student takes 3 dried beans when they enter class.  They keep the beans on their desks.  If you hear them speaking English, don't say anything, just take away a bean.  If they're doing a great job speaking Spanish and staying on task, add a bean to their pile.

At the end of class, all the students put their beans into a community glass jar.  The jar is labeled with certain rewards at certain levels.  Once their beans reach that level, the class gets that reward.  They like seeing how the other classes are doing and competing with them.

Variation:  Give 2 beans and students must earn 3 more beans before they leave class by participating 3 times.  If you notice that certain students don't have beans, ask them questions and do your best to get them to participate.
Tip:  You don't have to do this every day, but may wish to do it several times a week.

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Bellringers: Stress-Free Ideas for the World Language Classroom

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 / 1 comment

Bellringers. I think there are some magic teachers who've found a way to start class without them. If that's you, awesome!

For the rest of us, bellringers are a must while we manage attendance, tardies, and questions.

(Profe, I'll be gone next week-- can you give me all the work I'll miss? The end of the quarter is tomorrow, and I was wondering if I could do some extra credit. Profe, I did my homework, but I left it at home, but I've got a picture of it my mom just sent me...)  You know.

With a good morning routine, students know you are ready and expect them to get busy, right away. Today, I have some tips for streamlining the process and creating meaningful bellringers.

First off, I know I'm not interested another stack of papers to grade (who is??). So I've mainly gathered input-focused tasks. These bellringers focus on absorption of the language, with only a minimal response required. Student attention is high in those first 5-10 minutes: let's get compelling language going the minute they walk in the door.
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CONNECT FOUR: Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 / 3 comments
Hi everyone! I'm pleased to introduce you to our guest bloggers this week, Granabana created by Sol y Mar. You're probably already aware of Granabana because these two women have been creating innovative resources to share with others for quite some time! Over the summer they presented a conference for World Language teachers and we're so glad to be able to share part of that conference with you here today! We hope you enjoy this fun idea!

CONNECT FOUR:  Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom.

We, as Sra.Sol y Mar, creators of Granabana, facilitated a workshop in August we called CONNECT FOUR:  Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom.  If you thought you had missed a Summer conference, think again! for we bring you a portion of it today courtesy of Secondary Spanish Space!


This activity is effective for incorporating interpersonal speaking skills and technology into your curriculum and can be modified across all subjects and levels.

CONNECT FOUR:  Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom.

How does it work?

1.  Create a set of powerpoint slides to facilitate conversation of an appropriate level and theme for your group.  Each slide should have an open-ended question on it.  Students are given 20 seconds to answer each question, so include enough questions to fill as much time as you would like.

2.  Arrange the students' desks into rows so everyone can see the slides, and can still move easily into another desk.  For higher level classes, you might decide to only let the student who is reading the questions see them, so that their partner is required to listen closely.

3.  Start the timer.  ALL students read the question chorally to ensure 100% active engagement.  Row B answers and elaborates to fill the 20 seconds which is the time allotted for the Simulated Conversation in the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam.  Encourage students to use transition words, idiomatic expressions and their best higher level vocabulary.

4.  After 2-3 questions, students rotate partners in the direction of the arrows.

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Hispanic Heritage Month in Spanish class

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Each year the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage month from September 15 to October 15. As Spanish teachers this is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the varied cultures, histories, and contributions of Americans with Spanish speaking heritage. To be honest, in the past I have not done the best job making Hispanic Heritage month a priority. With the back to school hustle and trying to start the year off right, the month of September often flies by and suddenly it is October and time for Día de los Muertos. Here are many resources to put culture at the core of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Hispanic Heritage Month in Spanish class - Secondary Spanish Space

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Back to Spanish Class: Transition Tip for Any Secondary Classroom

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 / 2 comments

If you haven't figured out by now, I love using games, task cards, and hands-on activities in my secondary classroom. I like how they lend themselves to collaboration and community building, all while having fun and learning. Research shows a teenager's attention span is about 10 minutes so I move my students around a lot while we do these activities. Plus, have you yourself ever sat through a whole day of PD? I know my body aches by the end and I am usually one of those teachers standing in the back. Kids need to move!


Getting students out of their seats several times a class period requires a lot of transitions and that means the potential for many precious minutes to be wasted during those transitions. When students are in pairs or small groups, rather than say "Okay, someone needs to move," and spend the next three minutes listening to a classroom full of teenagers whine and argue over who has to move, I use statements to help determine who has to move. All can be quickly determined and make the decision for the students. 

An example of how it works: When it comes time for someone in the pair or group to move, I say "The person who was the last to eat pizza moves,". Students then figure who that person was and that person moves. This usually takes less than 5 seconds. If it is taking more than that, I make the kid who has been seated the longest move. 


Since I implemented this strategy, my transition time has decreased dramatically, we are getting more accomplished during the class period, and our relationships are stronger. I love learning little facts about my students and they love learning about each other, too. Bonus? Admins LOVE this strategy. That's always a good thing, too!

As with any new procedure, you will need to teach students your expectations for transitions. In this case, that the "mover" needs to be quickly determined (no long side conversations) and that they need to find their new seat hastily. What may take a minute at the beginning of the year shouldn't take more than 10-15 seconds max after a few weeks.

Here is a list of questions to get you started! 
The person...
1. ...with the next birthday moves.
2. ...with the last birthday moves.
3. ...who is oldest moves.
4. ...who is youngest moves.
5. ...who is tallest moves.
6. ...who is shortest moves.
7. ...with the longest hair moves.
8. ...with the shortest hair moves.
9. ...with the most siblings moves.
10. ...with the fewest siblings moves.
11. ...with the most pets moves.
12. ...with the fewest pets moves.
13. ...who got to school last today moves.
14. ...who got to school first today moves.
15. ...who has traveled the farthest moves.
16. ...with the most tattoos/piercings moves.
17. ...who plays the most sports for the school moves.
18. ...who woke up first today moves.
19. ...who woke up last today moves.
20. ...who lives the closest to the school moves.
21. ...who lives the farthest from the school moves.
22. ...who went to bed the latest last night moves.
23. ...who went to bed the earliest last night moves.
24. ...with the most jewelry on today moves.
25. ...with the least amount of jewelry on today moves.
26. ...with the most articles of clothing on moves.
27. ...who most recently finished a book (not for school!) moves.
28. ...who has eaten the weirdest thing moves.
29. ...who went to a concert last moves.
30. ...who played an instrument last moves.
31. ...who listened to music last moves.
32. ...who watched a movie at the theater last moves.
33. ...who watched the most TV yesterday moves.
34. ...who watched a movie last moves.
35. ...who traveled the farthest last Christmas moves.
36. ...who is wearing the darkest colored socks today moves.
37. ...who ate French fries last moves.
38. ...who drank water last moves.
39. ...who has moved the most amount of times moves.
40. ...who has moved the least amount of times moves.
41. ...who has traveled the farthest moves.
42. ...who went out to dinner at a restaurant last moves.
43. ...who trick-or-treated last moves.
44. ...who sent the last text message moves. 
45. ...who played a video game last moves.
46. ...who has the next math class moves.
47. ...who has the next science class moves.
48. ...who went to the last school dance moves.
49. ...who went to art class last moves.
50. ...who went to the last school sporting event moves.

In the rare event of a tie, I have students quickly do rock, paper, scissors.

I hope this helps you with your transitions! Do you have any fun questions to add to the list? Please leave them in the comments below! Have a great school year!

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