Cooking With Your Spanish Students, 5 Tips & Hints

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Are you brave enough to try a cooking day with your Spanish students, but wondering where to start? Here are a few tips & hints I've learned along the way!

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5 Ways to Use Plastic Eggs In Spanish Class

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 / 5 comments

The egg hunt is over, the candy has been eaten, and you are left with dozens of plastic eggs. Now what?? Use those plastic eggs in Spanish class, of course! (P.s. if you don't have any, stop reading this and immediately proceed to your nearest Target or similar store because they should have some 75% off or more since it is just after Easter! Grab some discounted chocolate while you are there, too. Go ahead, you deserve it.😀) Here are FIVE ways I love using those leftover plastic eggs in Spanish class.

This can be done inside the classroom or outside in the much-needed fresh air! Before class starts, take a task card set and sort them into as many piles as you have different colors of eggs. You can either sort them so there is an even amount of work required for each group or use this as a great opportunity to differentiate. You will need an even number of eggs for each color (8 pink, 8 purple, 8 blue, etc.). I like to use 8-10 of each color. Once the eggs have been stuffed and hidden, divide students into as many teams as you have colors and give them instructions. Tell them they need to find all the eggs of their color, open them up, and work together to complete each task card on a separate sheet of paper. The separate sheet of paper is necessary because they will be turning in their answers and the cards will get reused. Once everyone understands, assign each team a color. I highly recommend not telling them their colors until RIGHT before the hunt begins or else you will have students looking early and not paying attention to instructions. After all the eggs have been found and task cards completed, have students check their answers. I like to project the answer key so students can self-check. Then they write the number they got correct at the top and turn it in. Once they have turned in their sheet, I let them put the task cards back in the eggs and hide them for the next class. Give them some guidelines so they don't make them absolutely impossible to find or put them all in the same area. After class, I can quickly scan their answer sheets to see if the class is understanding whatever the task cards were about and adjust the next day's lesson. It's a really fun formative assessment!

For this activity, draw a clock face with hour and minute hands on one half of the egg and write out the time in Spanish on the other. Repeat on all the eggs. Students then need to match the clock face with the time in Spanish. This can either be done individually, in partners, or in small groups. Want to make it into a competition? Divide students into teams and have them race to put the eggs back together correctly!

Is your Spanish class not loud enough? Make maracas! Check out this blog post from A Thrifty Mom for step by step instructions on how to construct these fun little music-makers (hint: it's really easy). I love how students can put their own creative spin on them when they decorate. Ties in a little culture, too!

Even if you aren't good at art, you can still do this activity! (See picture below for proof. I am NOT an art teacher for a reason. Ha!) Draw a picture of an emotion on one half and write the corresponding emotion in Spanish on the other. Have students match the picture with the emotion vocabulary word that describes it. 

This activity works GREAT with adjectives! Write an adjective on one half of the egg and its antonym on the other. Students need to think about the adjectives they have learned and which ones are opposites as they match up the halves correctly. You could also add another layer to this and have masculine and feminine versions of adjectives in the mix so students have to not only match the opposites, but also make sure they agree in gender.

Have you used plastic eggs in your Spanish class? I would love to hear how in the comments below as I think we are all looking for fun new ways to use those leftover plastic eggs! Have fun!

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The 10 Commandments for Language Learning

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 / 3 comments

What makes for good language learning?  What are the strategies and techniques that will aide our students in their language journey?  Language teachers sometimes need to refresh
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Time Saving Tips for Spanish Interactive Notebooks

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Do you use interactive notebooks in you Spanish classes? If you're not familiar with interactive notebooks, I suggest you check out this post for info on the basics. If you'd like some tips to get started, you can check out this post on essentials for interactive notebooks.

I developed a love for teaching with interactive notebooks several years back. While many teachers share that same love, there are those who consider them "a waste of time". I have had email and in person conversations with other Spanish teachers who have kindly told me that teaching with interactive notebooks is a not a good use of time and that students should not be spending precious time in Spanish class cutting and coloring. Is this a valid point? Absolutely! However, could it be worth it to spend a bit more time incorporating these hands-on notes and activities in order to provide a more engaging learning experience for students? Absolutely! Now, the purpose of this post is not to convince you to use or not to use INBs. As a disclaimer, if you are using interactive notebooks, I firmly believe that this should be ONE part of your class and not the whole class, which is why it is so important to reserve as many minutes as possible to incorporate other learning experiences for our students. With that being said, check out these time saving tips for Spanish interactive notebooks.

1. Establish a Routine
Just like anything else in your class, INBs have to have a routine or it can become chaotic quickly. Think about how this looks in your class. What are the procedures for gathering notebooks, materials, and adding inserts to notebooks? Taking the time to establish these routines definitely pays off and saves time in the long run. Cherin at This Teachers Sweats Glitter talks about her routine for INBs here and then shows her set up using different bins here. I love the labeled bins so that groups know what they need to get quickly without waiting around for materials to be handed out.

2. Model Assembly for Students
This may seem like it a time suck, but, trust me, when you have students that are asking to start over because they "messed up", it's a time (and paper) saver in the long run. I always choose one student and use their handouts as the class example and cut and fold in front of the class. This also demonstrates to the class that cutting and folding can be done quickly and efficiently.

3. Give Time Limits

As with anything else in the classroom, you will have students who will take absolutely AS LONG AS POSSIBLE to create their interactive notebook inserts. I avoid this by giving set time limits. Students are given a reasonable time limit to cut, fold, and attach a template to their notebooks. When the time is up, we move on to adding information. Students that are not finished with the assembly process, then have to finish for homework. This is enforced by projecting a countdown timer on the board.

4. Use Simple Templates.
When I first started interactive notebooks, I didn't have a clue about how the templates I selected could affect the time involved. While it's fun to sometimes use flower and circular templates (I definitely still do!), these take more time to prepare as the cutting is not as simple. Foldable templates that use straight lines are easier and less time consuming for students to cut.

5. Prepare Templates Ahead of Time

Another tip to avoid using class time for notebook preparation is to have students prepare templates in advance. Students can prepare their templates the night before for homework and then bring them to class ready to add the information. Additionally, if you have a student assistant that needs some extra work, this could be delegated to your assistant as well.

6. Add Color Last/Use Colored Paper
While some students love adding color and some don't, my rule regardless is that color is added to notebook or templates LAST. This ensures that you save some time there and gives students the options for adding color when other activities are completed or at home. Another option is to print templates on colored paper if available. This adds some automatic color with little effort involved.

What about you? I'd love to hear your time saving tips for interactive notebooks!


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Why I Don't Teach Conjugations Until December

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 / 2 comments

If you're like me, you rely on the internet and social media to stay updated on teaching language. Among hot topics you'll encounter online, grammar might just be the hottest.

Mention you don't teach explicit grammar in some groups, and they'll react as if you'd said you hate tacos:
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How to Plan a World Language Lip Sync Night at Your School

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 / 1 comment

Looking to spice up your World Language Department?  
Organize a World Language Lip Sync Night!  
Here's a quick overview of how it works.  The whole department works together to create a night of music, dance, and entertainment in French, Spanish, German, and 
whatever other World Languages your school offers.  
(If you are a department of one, hang on, I have suggestions for you, too.)

Each junior and senior class (or just seniors if you have a huge school), picks a song, combines movement and props to go with it, and presents it on stage.  Freshmen and sophomores are encouraged to attend with free homework passes.  
Most of them secretly want to attend anyway, but a free homework pass never hurts.      

The older students have a blast performing songs in the target language and the younger students love watching the older students having such a good time on stage.

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How to Start Collaborating with Spanish Teachers on Social Media

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 / 3 comments

In last week's post, Jen talked about the power of social media for finding authentic resources. This week, we continue the social media discussion by talking about how to get online collaborations with other Spanish teachers started.

My Experience

Over the past three years or so, I've slowly joined a number of Spanish teacher online professional learning communities on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Facebook and Instagram are going strong, but my Twitter is pretty sad. I have maybe 5 tweets. Follow me and maybe you guys can inspire me to get on this platform more - I see huge potential!

By connecting with Spanish teachers on social media, I am amazed at the simple, and meaningful interactions that I have with teachers from all over. I stretch my own thinking about what good language learning looks like. I learn about authentic resources, project ideas, and different instructional approaches. Just one example was learning about that awesome Soy Yo music video when someone mentioned it in a Facebook group the day after the video came out. Also, I am able to share my own stories and ideas, so I feel like I'm helping other teachers too. This connection has become a daily thing for me. I just love it.

Why Bother?

We've all heard about the importance of sustained professional development (PD) within the teaching profession. Central to good PD is building your Professional Learning Communities or Networks (PLCs and PLNs). Forgive all the acronyms... but what teacher doesn't love a few?!

Good PD with your PLC/PLN is a great way to keep our ideas fresh, our classrooms effective, while helping to reduce teacher burn out. Finding a PLC/PLN on social media has the added benefit that your learning is 100% optional and totally self directed. There's no principal forcing you to attend the PLC meeting! You choose when to login and how much to contribute. You also can stay relatively anonymous online. Ask any and all questions in a "judgement free zone," where Spanish teacher peers will be happy to provide you feedback, without any pressure or local school politics involved.

Better still, online PD even aligns with the ISTE standards for teachers. By participating in online communities, teachers stand to construct knowledge together in virtual environments (ISTE Standard 1), maybe even becoming virtual teacher leaders, who contribute to the effectiveness and renewal of the teaching profession (ISTE Standard 5). Look at how amazing you could be!

Where to Start?

Step 1. Identify what social media platform is best for you.

No one has time to jump on every platform out there. The top three for teachers seem to be Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. To pick which of these platforms is best for you, ask yourself:

  • Which platform do you already use in your daily life? 
  • Which platform seems easiest to navigate for you? 
  • Which platform do your local Spanish teacher colleagues use? They may be a great resource as you are getting started.
  • Do you prefer visuals? Go with Instagram!
  • Do you want to be able to search easily through archived discussions? Do you want your discussions to be private? Go with Facebook groups!
  • Do you want a diverse, large community and open access? Go with Twitter!

Note: You might want to use your own personal account (I do this for the private Facebook groups that I'm a part of - since they are not publicly viewable), or create a new "professional account" (I do this for Instagram and Twitter - since they are public).

Step 2. Figure out who to follow.

For Instagram and Twitter: You can always start by following the 10 of us Secondary Spanish Space teacher bloggers. On our About Us page, there are clickable links to each of our social media accounts. Also, check out Spanish Plan's Instagram post and Sra Cruz's Instagram post for a list of popular Spanish teacher related Instagram accounts and hash tags that may be useful. Carolina at Fun for Spanish Teachers provides a list for Facebook and Pinterest, too.

Once you follow a few Spanish teachers, find more connections by "stealing" from the list of people they follow.

I also suggest searching for new people by using hashtags.

Popular Spanish Teacher Instagram Hashtags:

Popular Spanish Teacher Twitter Hashtags:

For Facebook: It works a little differently. You'll want to join closed (private) Facebook groups, where Spanish teachers work together. You can search Facebook for "groups," using key words like "Spanish teacher(s)". I really enjoy these groups:

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How Find Authentic Resources on Social Media: #AuthRes

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 / 1 comment

Hi! I'm Jen from the blog Spanish with Sra. Shaw.  By far the most popular of my blog posts has been a 6-part series about how IPAs (Integrated Performance Assessments) transformed my classroom. As more districts move toward proficiency-based curricula, IPAs seem to be an ever-increasing topic of discussion and a source of frustration for teachers as they begin to create these uniquely-styled assessments, which is why I wanted to help. 

I initially set out out to write the IPA blog posts to support my colleagues as they began using these assessments in their classrooms. Specifically, I wrote about the background of IPAs and made suggestions on how to create, manage, and break down each of the 3 performance tasks (interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational) with the hope of clarifying each task and giving examples that would help teachers to envision activities that would fit their units. 

The response from readers and fellow teachers was much different than I expected. First, I was surprised that anyone on earth would want to read my blog at all.  I had anticipated perhaps some questions about the interpersonal task, which people seem to find to be the most challenging. However,  what I found instead was that people wanted to know more about where to find authentic resources to create the interpretive task. I've found this as this seems to be a major stumbling block for teachers implementing IPAs, which is why I'm writing this post.

If you've ever looked for the perfect video, photo, or audio clip, you understand. I do not exaggerate when I say I've spent entire days (honestly, perhaps weeks) of my life looking for the perfect authentic resource.  It's so incredibly easy to fall into a black hole scouring the internet for just the right video clip because you can just keep looking, and looking, and looking. Also, it doesn't help that I'm a perfectionist about authentic resources because I insist they are 100% authentic and were created by a native speaker for a native audience. If not, I won't use it. I actually could write an entire blog post about how to choose an appropriate authentic resource, but that's another topic for a different day and the amazing Julie from Mundo de Pepita has already written a really helpful post about it here.

Who wants to waste valuable time looking for authentic resources? Today I'm here to share some tips to help you find the perfect resource quickly and efficiently.


Tip #1: Search in the Target Language (TL) 

 If you haven't tried searching for  an authentic resource in the target language, make this your first priority. If you search in English, you'll mostly find other WL teachers' suggestions of resources, which may or not be authentic.  More often than not, I've found it's not what I'm looking for and that they are often teacher-created AKA not authentic.

Example: You search "school schedule Spanish." You'll mostly come up with schedules fabricated by Spanish teachers, students, and maybe a few truly authentic texts. However, if you change your search term to "horario de clases," almost everything you find will be authentic. 

This works for every form of social media and internet search. I've had lots of luck on Google and especially on YouTube. It's shocking up much great stuff I can come up with on YouTube searching in the TL.


Tip #2: Go Where Your Search Leads You

 Sometimes, I've found I have a tendency to force a search and look for something that doesn't even exist. However, I've found if you can search in the TL, you might be surprised where that will take you and that your first search might lead you down a much better path than the one you were originally on.

For example, I recently redid an IPA for a school unit. I started out on YouTube with the search term "Mi Colegio." I found some decent hits, but nothing I'd want to use as my resource and some non-authentic items. When I clicked to watch a video that looked like it might be worthwhile, I found that I didn't like it, but that the suggested/related videos along the right hand side were a jackpot. There were literally dozens of videos that I wouldn't have otherwise found because I don't know exactly the exact terminology a native speaker will use to title a video.

For example, check out the this YouTube video,  which may or may not be worth looking at, but more importantly explore the "good" and "bad" authentic resource suggestions along the right hand side. You'll notice some are actually created by Spanish teachers (yuck), but that there are some helpful leads to refine your search based on the video titles created by native speakers. 

So, in summary, start out with a basic TL search and look for even better search terms from a native speaker and refine your search accordingly.  I've got a ton of authentic resources pinned by unit on my Pinterest account and then I actually recently started an "AuthRes" board of cool things I find that don't currently fit in one of my units, but I want to save. Follow me on Pinterest and you'll be able to stalk out all of the resources I pin.


Tip #3: Pin your Authentic Resources 

 If you haven't discovered Pinterest yet, you need to. It's incredible. It's where I save and organize all of the ideas and random resources that I know I want to use, but don't have time to deal with at the moment.  I love that it keeps me organized and inspired and I consider it one of my favorite forms of social media professional development (although read on about my newfound PD love of Twitter).

Now, how can Pinterest help you find authentic resources? It's tricky because honestly Pinterest has a TON of non-authentic material created by non-native speakers and it's hard to filter through. I recently discovered a  Pinterest trend, however, that has helped me find some ideal authentic resources in almost no time at all. #yayefficiency!

In December, I couldn't find any intriguing videos for the school unit I discussed above in Tip #2, but once I started pinning some decent or even just O.K. YouTube videos, Pinterest started making some amazing recommendations.  Based on the videos I pinned, the Pinterest algorithims started sending me all kinds of quality authentic resources! Some were related to my school unit and others were just really cool resources that I pinned for other units. Guess what happened when I then pinned those recommendations? Pinterest sent me even MORE authentic resources and a beautiful cycle began in which I pin something, I receive recommendations for related pins, I pin some more, and on and on it goes. It's beautiful. Gosh, I love Pinterest. 

If you'd like to follow me on Pinterest so you can see everything I'm pinning, here is my page. This is board where I've been pinning all of the authentic resources board (discussed above) and this is a collaborative Realia board from our very own Sherry. 
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Three Ideas to Make Any Lesson More Engaging

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 / Leave a Comment
I used to have a very grammar-based curriculum I had to teach. I had to teach students when to use 'personal a' in stand-alone sentences with no context. They had to learn the rules for how to know which nouns are masculine or feminine, and memorize common exceptions. They learned irregular preterite verb endings in one fell swoop.

It was sometimes painful.

When I had a lesson or topic coming up that bored even me (and I'm the teacher!), then I had a couple activities in my back pocket that will spice up any "write-this-down-and-memorize-it-because-it's-on-the-test" lesson.

Coloring Activities

I know, I know. You're thinking - coloring activities?! In HIGH SCHOOL?! Oh, yes. Coloring. In high school!

Coloring automatically makes anything more engaging, and it's also calming - even to the craziest of students or classes.

Once I taught my students the colors in Spanish, I could include colors in any (every) lesson after that.

If you are teaching new vocabulary, include a listening activity with colors vocabulary. When I taught clothing vocabulary, I gave each student a handout with the clothing items as outlines so they could color them in.

1.  I would then say "Los calcetines son anaranjados".
2.  Students had to find the calcetines on their handout and color them orange.
3.  Then I would go through 5-6 more clothing items and different colors and students would have to listen for what clothing item I was saying and color it the correct color.

This activity also works for school supplies vocabulary!

Foldable Activities

Foldable activities are great if you finish the lesson and then realize there are still 10 minutes of class left. This has happened to other people too, right?

Students love activities where they can manipulate the paper and the activity automatically becomes more interactive. This is also my favorite way to review verbs - forms of ir, all present tense -AR verbs, preterite irregular verbs... literally any type of verb.

1.  Pass out one sheet of blank copy paper to each student (steal borrow it from the copy room beforehand).
2.  Have students fold their paper into 8 boxes (fold once hot dog-style and then twice hamburger-style).
3.  Write a different subject pronoun in each box.
4.  Write a sentence with an irregular preterite verb in each box - each box must have a different verb in it!
5.  Draw a (pretty) picture to illustrate your sentence.
6.  I also pass out the colored pencils at this point because, again, I love coloring.

When I taught definite articles (completely out of context because my curriculum was super amazing like that), I would have students fold their paper into 4 boxes and write a definite article in each box, and then list nouns they knew that fell into each category and draw (pretty) pictures of those items. And then color.  Because coloring is THE BEST.


This activity takes much more prep ahead of time, but if you laminate things and store them safely for next year, then it's worth it. If you immediately throw everything out after the students are done and have to re-do it year after year, then you will curse yourself each year.


When I taught forms of the verb ser in the present tense, I would type up sentences, that would be cut into three parts for students to put back together. 

1.  Type up a sentence with each subject pronoun (yo soy alto, tú eres mi amigo, usted es de Colombia, nosotros somos inteligentes, etc). (I recommend using a large font size (20+) and adding extra spaces between words so cutting is easier later).
2.  Make enough copies for students to work in pairs.  This cuts the rest of your prep work in half.
3.  Laminate all papers so you don't hate yourself next year.  (Or skip this step and definitely curse yourself next year.)
4.  Cut each sentence into three parts - the subject pronoun, the verb, and the rest of the sentence.
5.  Put all sentence parts into a sandwich-size baggie.
6.  Pass out the baggies to students and have them work in pairs to recreate the sentences.
7.  If you are super amazing, then make two different sets of sentences (copy them on different colors of paper so you can easily tell which is Set 1 and which is Set 2) and have pairs of students switch sets when they finish theirs correctly.
8.  You can also have students write their sentences down in notebooks or on paper you'll collect later.
9.  Plan to definitely have a discussion with the class as to why "usted es mi amigo" is grammatically correct, but not the best sentence.

I hope these ideas help if you also have lessons that you dread teaching each year because they are SO BORING.  Please share if you have other ideas for activities that can be used across multiple topics to spice things up and engage students!

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Teaching a Novel 101

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 / 3 comments

Teaching a Novel 101

The idea of teaching your first novel in Spanish class can be pretty scary. It was a big change of mentality from the textbook and thematic units I used my first two years teaching. During the 2013-2014 school year, I wrote and was awarded three separate grants to buy books in Spanish for my Classroom Library and multiple full class sets of novels. (If you want to know more about writing grants see here).  In the fall of 2014 I started using novels as the center of my comprehensible input classroom curriculum, and have done so ever since. I do not claim to be an expert, but since the majority of what I do revolves around novels I have a ton of posts labeled novels on Mis Clases Locas if you have some time to dig. Since you are busy people, I will try to put everything together here for how to teach a novel in Spanish class 101. 

Step 1 - Research 

If you are interested in teaching with novels, the first thing to do is read as many as you can get your hands on to see what would interest your students. Check out Fluency MattersMira CanionSpanish CuentosTPRS Books, One Good Story, and other independent publishers of novels for language learners. Many of these publishers have sample packs of books that can be purchased, or sample chapters to read before you buy. Bryce Hedstrom's ranking the novels, while a few years old, gives an idea of difficulty for some popular novels. Finally check out Mike Peto's CIreading site , which puts together hard to find independently published novels for language learners. 

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5 Target Finds for Your Spanish Classroom

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 / 5 comments

I am addicted to Target. There. I said it. Man, that feels good to get off my chest! There is something about strolling up and down the aisles, pushing a red cart and sipping a Starbucks mocha, that I find relaxing. Every once in a while I come across something for my Spanish classroom and think, "Aha!". Here are five of my favorites finds.
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Valentine's Day in Your Spanish Classes- What's Not to Love?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Ways to celebrate Valentine's Day in your Spanish classes without losing learning time.

Thinking of celebrating el Día de los Enamorados / El Día de San Valentín in your Spanish classes but concerned you'll be losing precious time away from your curriculum to do it?  I used to be the teacher who would roll my eyes when I heard other Spanish teachers were celebrating Valentine's Day with their classes- until I realized that it actually doesn't mean sacrificing meaningful learning time with students!

There are so many fun activities that can be done on Valentine's Day that can enhance your lessons, not detract from them.  Here are a few fun ideas!  You could devote an entire class period (or several) to Valentine's Day themed lessons.  However, if you truly don't feel you have the time to devote an entire period to the holiday of love, consider choosing several activities as Brain Breaks, Class Starters, Wrap Up activities or Fast Finisher activities!

I hope these activities spark your imagination!  
See the links at the end for even more ideas!
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