Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Apps for Spanish Class - Akinator

Last week for something different, I started the class using an  app for the iPad called "Akinator".  It is similar to "20 Questions".  First you think of a person, real or fictional, and then Akinator asks questions for which you must answer Yes/No/Probably/I don't Know/etc.  The great thing about the app is that there are many languages in which you can play the game.

When my students walked in, I had Akinator projected on the white board.  Of course it caught their attention and they immediately said, "What's that?" and other comments.  I told them to choose a person that was real or from a book, or movie, or TV show, or cartoon character or anyone they could think of.  We then proceeded with the activity and Akinator proposed the first question in Spanish.  Many of the words in the questions were familiar but many times they had to ask me what something meant or they were able to figure it out through context.  

After Akinator correctly guessed the characters they had selected, they asked to play again, and again, and again.  I limited it to 6 or 7 times, but they wanted to play it the whole class.  I wanted to show them that simply by changing the language on games, or apps, you can learn new words in Spanish and increase your vocabulary, and....Have FUN!  

If you haven't tried Akinator yet, I strongly recommend it for when you have a few minutes at the end of class that you don't want to waste, or maybe just for an activity to change up the routine that the students will enjoy.  It costs $1.99 and worth every penny.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Seating Arrangement

Earlier this month, I decided to change the seating arrangement in my classroom.  I used to have the desks in a U formation to allow the students to communicate with others better.  However, even that arrangement didn't quite suit me and I realized it wasn't necessarily the U formation, it was the desks that were in the way.  The only time students need a desk is when they are writing, and my goal is to have stories and interaction in my classroom, not worksheets as I used to in my old school way of teaching. 

One day, in the middle of class when the students were standing for an activity in which they were retelling a story to each other, I asked them to move all the desks to the perimeter of the room.  Later, I moved the desks to the more organized positions above...but when the students come into class, it usually looks like the 2nd photo.  When they need to draw or write something, they move to the desks or use a clipboard.   When I want to show a video clip or use the interactive projector, only a few students need to move to the side.  

The new circle arrangement encourages verbal communication.  One thing I really like about it is that many times I also sit in a chair in the circle and during activities and discussions, I either switch chairs with other students or move my chair to sit beside different students throughout the activity.  I feel like I'm communicating with my students now instead of "just teaching".  :)

I believe I saw a similar arrangement (no desks but the chairs were in a circle) in a photo on Michele Whaley's blog several months ago and now that I'm using the arrangement, I'm wondering why I waited so long to adopt it!  

What seating arrangement works best in your classroom?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sock Puppets App w/ TPRS

Three weeks ago another language teacher told me about the Sock Puppets app for iPhone and iPad.  I experimented with it and kept it on my list of possible sites to use in class when I needed to change things up a bit.

Yesterday, I started a story with my Spanish class.  I've had a student teacher since January, and yesterday was my first day to teach them since several weeks ago.  I have the skeleton of a story that I use that gives several examples of POR, and that is the story I started yesterday.  I only had 20 minutes to tell the first part of the story because I was headed on a field trip in the afternoon. 
The first part of the story was very basic and short. The students retold the story to each other and I also had them write it so I could correct it before continuing on Friday.  The first activity I did with the students today (one day after they heard the story) was: I asked them to number their paper 1-10.  Then they had to listen to the story below and find the differences in this version compared to the version from yesterday.  The Sock Puppets App made it more interesting for the students to watch. 
If you want to give more repetitions and you are afraid the students will be bored, try mixing it up with different types of repetitions that will help to keep the students' interest.