Saturday, January 30, 2016

Scaffold Authentic Resources for Listening Comprehension Success

If I had my wish, I would insert another 50+ hours for each level of language at my school.  I don't foresee that happening (ever) in the future, which means I need to make every minute count in my classroom. This translates into scrutinizing my lessons and activities for what is best for the students in helping them increase their proficiency in the language in the limited time that I have with them. 

I've used the the group, Sie7e's song "Tengo tu love" in the past as a simple cloze activity with my Spanish 2 students. After preparing my lessons this week that included this song, I decided it was better to trim down the focus to a smaller portion of the song.  

With that in mind, I created two activities for students to complete while listening to this authentic resource.

First, we listened to the song and watched the video. I wanted them to enjoy the song, plus I suspected if students had to complete the activities the first time they heard the song, they would be more interested in watching the video than listening for specific information.

Activity A - The singer mentions things that he does and doesn't have.  The reason I chose the song was the high use of TENGO so I wanted to have the opportunity to use TENGO when going over the answers with the students. I listed the following for activity A:
- things the singer says he has
- things the singer says he doesn't have
- things that are not mentioned in the song

Students listen to the first portion of the song and check or cross out the items depending if the singer says he has or doesn't have the item.

When we went over this activity, I asked students, ¿El cantante dijo, "Tengo un celular con diamantes" o dijo "No tengo un celular con diamantes" o no lo mencionó?

Activity B - The expression VALE MÁS QUE is heavily used in the second half of the song. Finding a song that includes comparisons is a plus because I often forget to include comparisons in our class stories. I listed the comparisons that the singer makes and students match the answers from the list on the right that will complete the sentence.  The sentences are in order of the song to make it easier for students to follow.

I paused and replayed the above two sections of the song to give students additional opportunities to hear the lyrics. Thanks to the scaffolding, the students reported that the activity was at their level and they were successful in hearing specific words in the lyrics.   

If you are interested in the document, you can find the pdf HERE

Thursday, January 21, 2016


At the beginning of a new school year or semester, do your students know the names of their classmates? To find out, ask your students if they can name everyone's first name. Then ask if they can name their last name too. If they don't know their classmates' names, then it's safe to assume they know very little other information about their classmates.

I asked my students the above questions and only one student was brave enough to try to name everyone in the class, although he did say he was unsure about many of the last names.  He started in the front row and after he said the student's name, the student then had to (1) stand-up, (yes, I asked them to stand for a semi-formal introduction of themselves) and (2) tell us something interesting about themselves. It is always interesting to me to hear what the students want to share about themselves. It gives me a hint to what is important to me.  

This was my Spanish 4 class so they completed all of the activities in Spanish. There are 27 students in the class and this part of the ice-breaker lasted more than 20 minutes.

Then I gave each person a quarter slip of paper and instructed them to write their name on the paper, and then to the 4 questions pictured above.  
For those that need a translation, the sentences/questions in the box are:
1. A food that you never want to eat
2. The vacation of your dreams
3. Someone with whom you want to eat a meal
4. What do you want to do after graduating (from PHS).

The students handed in their papers face down and then I randomly picked 6 of the papers and wrote the names on the board.  The students wrote 1-6 in their notebooks. I read the answers on the first paper and students looked at the list and choose a person that they thought wrote the answer from the bank of students' names.

After I had read the information on the first 6 papers, we went over the answers and the students checked their own papers.  
Scoring - 6/6 correct - 8 pts
              5/6 correct - 5 pts
              4/6 correct - 4 pts
              3/6 correct - 3 pts
              2/6 correct - 2 pts
              1/6 correct - 1 pt

We proceeded to the second and third round before we had to stop because we ran out of time.  

I liked this activity because:
- the information students had to provide was different than the typical questions such as do you have a pet?, do you play a sport? what is your hobby? etc.  
- it turned into a backdoor review of foods with the focus not specifically on the words but rather on guessing which person had written the answer
- it provided me with information about the students for use in future classes
- the students learned their classmates' names and a little information about them

Next time, I might consider switching out one of the questions for: 
Of what are you afraid? or...anything that comes to mind on that particular day.

Can you tell I'm having a good time getting to know my new students?  :-) 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Odd Uses for Marshmallows

When a new semester begins in January, I am assured of one thing: Some students come directly to my class from the previous level, and others in the class have not had the previous level for a year or more.

My goal is to make sure ALL the students feel successful from the very first day, even if it has been more than a few months since they have been in Spanish class.

This semester I chose to ease my students into Spanish 4 by using El Cacto y el Banco activities created by Paige which Carrie Toth shared on her blog. You can find the activities HERE. It includes a link to the advertisement, a powerpoint, a cloze activity, and screenshots for a retell.  

I liked the activities and I was looking for one more detail to add student voice for an opportunity to let students be creative.  The most obvious "detail" was...the marshmallow.

I bought a bag of marshmallows (less than $1) and passed the bag around the class so students could each take one. Then I asked them to think of unconventional uses for marshmallows and share their idea (in Spanish, of course) with the class. (This ties into the video because the little girl uses the marshmallow in a creative way to resolve a problem.)

Some of the student ideas:  
- use it for a pillow for ants
- put one over your nose when you're swimming to block water from entering your nose
- make comfy shoes
- put between your toes when painting your toe nails (one of my personal favorite ideas. I told students there was an extra point waiting for the first student to send me a photo of this idea in action.)
- create earrings 

Obviously, this wasn't a traditional activity, but it was successful because:
1. ALL students were engaged - they were busy trying to think of something creative and were enjoying listening to their classmates' ideas
2. Students were creating with the language.
3. Students were exposed to some words they hadn't seen before in Spanish (ex: pillow, ant)
4. It was a reinforcement to students that learning Spanish can be fun and enjoyable, and the language journey in my classroom will most likely include unpredictable and unconventional methods.
5. Students ATE the marshmallows at the end of the activity.

Thanks to Paige and Carrie for sharing their ideas, which in turn made my prep time for this lesson much easier!    

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Game of Things for the MFL classroom

Last week during Christmas vacation, my family gathered at my sister's house to play "The Game of Things".  After 1 round, I was already making plans to play it in Spanish class.  

Find it at Target or Walmart
The rules of the game are:
1.  A person reads a card from the game, such as "Things that you wish grew on trees", 
2. Players write an answer to what they wish grew on trees, and put their answers in a basket.
3. I read the submitted answers (since I saw the handwriting, I didn't guess but I still put my answer in with the others.) 
4. While the answers are read, have a student write the answers on the board
5. Person A chooses one of the answers (they can not choose the answer they wrote) and guesses who said it.
6. If Person A guessed correctly, s/he gets a point and the person s/he guessed cannot play in this round. Person A continues to guess until s/he is incorrect.
7. If Person A is incorrect, play moves to Person B and Person B tries to guess one of the answers.
8. Play continues until the person guessing has guessed all answers and is left only with his/her own.  The person receives 2 points since nobody guessed what they wrote.

A week after I played the game, I saw a teacher's Facebook post about the game. Click on this link to find some sample questions on Quizlet that you can translate to your TL.  Or, personalize it and write your own questions.

I played this game on the first day back after Christmas vacation (trying to ease into a five day school week again), with my Spanish 5 students.  We played with 9 people and it worked well. You can play with more people (I played it the second time during my vacation on New Year's Eve with 15 people and that was still fun, but definitely harder. It took us about 30 minutes to complete one round! Of course, there was a lot of conversation along with the guessing.)

If you want to play this game with a larger class, you could:
1. divide the students into two or three groups. 
2. 9 or 10 students write the answers; divide the rest of the class into teams of two and the teams work to guess who wrote the answer.  The students that wrote the answers can sit in a line in front to make it clear which persons they can ask.
3. Divide the class into teams of 2 or 3.  The students in each team write their answer on the same paper.  Students work together as teams to guess which teams said which answers.

This link is to the online rule. Adjust as needed for your classroom.
This link is to a video of a man explaining the game. Ignore his comments that it is for adults only. 
My students really enjoyed this game. If you don't try it with your students, I still recommend that you try it with your friends. 

In fact, maybe I can convince my CI teacher friends to play this one of the evenings at IFLT. (What do you think Martina? Will you and others be "game" for this?)