Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nada Hoy

Today I think to myself that I'm going to download a blog template and update the look of this blog.  I found a great looking template online and downloaded it to take a good look at it.  But when I got it set up, I discovered it was lacking certain functions that I could not live without.  For example, there was no button to press to created a new blog post.  And there was no button to edit the blog . . . so, I was stuck with no way to undo it.  Well, no easy way at any rate.

To make a long story short, I spent ten minutes destroying my blog and another ninety minutes trying to fix it.  I can tell you that is is not a productive way to spend your planning period, amigos.  So, instead of sharing something witty or interesting from my classroom today, I am posting this little note then running along to work on tomorrow's lessons.  With luck I will return tomorrow with something more blog worthy to share.

Hasta pronto,


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Banco de Textos

While I was out and about in the blogosphere today, I came across a very interesting post on the Educación tecnológica blog about a text bank in Spanish.  With the unassuming name "Banco de Textos" it looks like a good source of authentic pulic domain texts for educators to use in their classes.

To make things better, the texts are classified by their writing style (narrativo, expositivo, descriptivo, etc.) to make relevant material easy to find.  And, the best part is that there are audio texts too.  Perfect for listening activities!  There are texts for children and for mature readers, and there is a search feature too so that you can find something appropriate for your class quickly.

I have bookmarked Banco de Textos and I hope to find excellent resources there for use in my Spanish IV and my AP Spanish classes.

Hasta pronto,


Monday, November 28, 2011


My Spanish II students were given the task of creating a little booklet written in the preterite tense about a trip to a city.  I told them the trip could be a real trip they took or one they dreamed up on their own, and I was really thrilled with the results I got.  I think that leaving them open to interpretation allowed the creative students to do their thing but, at the same time, gave enough structure to those students who needed it.

I insisted that they make their books from scratch and I showed them a video online demonstrating how to make a simple journal to give them some guidance, but again I left a lot of the creative process in their hands.  "As long as it isn't a couple sheets of paper folded over or stapled together," I told them.   In this day of going to the craft store and finding everything there already made for you, I wanted them to get hands into this and go through the creative process themselves.  

In my classroom I keep a lot (and I mean a LOT) of craft supplies that I make available to the students.  We are also blessed at my school to have about half an hour each day, on average, for students to go to work with the teachers they need to see and help.  I had a lot of students stop by to have me read their drafts, to use craft supplies, and to solicit advice.  Hooray for them!

Part of the success in the project lies in writing a good rubric, which I believe I did this time.  I'm getting better all the time!  But that is a blog post for another day.

UPDATE 4/7/2015: Because of the requests I have received for the rubric and the project guidelines, I have posted them.  They can be found in this post: Rarito . . . y un proyecto para Español II .

Hasta pronto,


Monday, November 21, 2011

PEP - Plan Personal de Educación

I am blessed to work in a charter school where common sense is still the norm but, not all teachers have that luxury.  Sometimes I am reminded of how wonderful my school is when I peek over the metaphorical fence into the land of pulic education.  Specifically a friend of mine recently emailed me that she was working on her PEPs and I had no idea what that referred to.  Personal Education Plans, she told me - "like an IEP but for all the students who are failing your class and don't qualify for special services."

My jaw dropped.

You have got to be kidding me!  But no, apparently it is the new thing that North Carolina legislators (who have never walked a mile in a teacher's shoes) have decided will improve our public education system.  Here is a link I found online from, of all places, a law office that is more than happy to advocate for parents who cannot get a PEP in place for their child.

And, let's get something straight up front.  I am all in favor of students who need some extra help receiving it from their teachers.  This is a good thing that good teachers automatically do for their students.  However, when we start writing laws that force teachers into creating legal documentation, specialized instruction, and scheduling extra parent meetings for every single student who is having academic difficulty, it is over the line.  Then you get the lawyers involved and it is beyond the pale.  

Teachers belong in the classroom, working with students, creating interesting lessons, assessing student work, and providing the best instruction they can for all their students.  They do not need to be in extended meetings, drawing up formalized plans and interventions for legal purposes.  This sort of thing kills the joy of teaching and drives good teachers, especially the once who care enough to work with troubled and/or remedial students, away from the profession.

You might be wondering what the big deal is.  I mean, how many students are we talking about?  A teacher has thirty kids and maybe three of them need some extra help, right?  No, not at all.  First we have legalized and formalized plans in place for all our students who require special services.  These meetings and the associated paperwork take up a lot of time as it is.  Then we have special plans in place for students who are suffering from diagnosed emotional and behavioral problems.  Those also require a lot of vigilance (which is only natural and compassionate) and documentation (which is not).  Now we are going to add another level to this process and include students who are failing but do not have any diagnosed emotional, behavioral, or intellectual failings, but are not passing for other reasons.  This will require specialized paperwork, meeting with the team, goal-setting, follow-ups, and re-writing the plan again.  (Lather, rinse, repeat . . . and repeat, and repeat, and repeat . . . )  And remember that some teachers choose to work with students who are in remedial classes.  Those teachers will have three to four times the paperwork of a teacher who teaches an honors class.  And too, middle and high school teachers do not have thirty kids in their class - they have 120 students over the course of the day.  Are you starting to see the problem?

Let's put teachers back in the classroom with their students and stop this legislative madness, please.  All the laws in the world are not making education any better, North Carolina!  Those of you in the state legislature should be ashamed of yourselves for passing this looks-good-on-the-surface law without bothering to think past the surface into what it was really going to mean for North Carolina's teachers - and ultimately the students too.  If we cannot hire the best teachers AND hold on to them, we will never have the best education system.  And, we cannot hold onto them if we micromanage them to death.

Hasta pronto,


Friday, November 18, 2011

Pavos con Verbos

Right before Thanksgiving break (which is for a whole week at my school!) the students are exhausted.  Many teachers try to cram in every last tiny bit of curriculum and they are really cracking the whip to get it all in before the break.  So, when I'm up to date, I like to do a little something crafty with the kids that will lower their stress level a bit.  In fact, 5th period let out a collective hoot of joy today when I told them we were making turkeys.  I love those kids!

You have them choose an action verb, preferably one you have been studying recently in class.  They write the conjugations on each finger and then they decorate the turkey to make it look as though it is engaging in the activity indicated by the verb.  So a turkey with nadar would look as though it were swimming, a turkey with the verb tocar would be playing a musical instrument, etc.

 I even made a little Powerpoint presentation for you to share with your students, if you choose.  The pictures make it easier to give instructions entirely in Spanish without having to repeat in English.

((Follow up note: I have spent the last hour trying to figure out how to upload the Power Point file so that I can link it here.  Suffice it to say that I have not yet figured it out, but I am pretty tenacious so I will keep trying.))

((Follow up follow up note: I got it working now!))

Hasta pronto,


Thursday, November 17, 2011

El Día de Acción de Gracias

As a vegetarian and a dedicated non-sports person, I don't find much excitement in Thanksgiving.  My usual television is supplanted by football games and I have the unenviable task of creating a mega meal that will satisfy both the vegetarians and meat-eaters in our family.  

However, the idea behind Thanksgiving is taking time to reflect on the year and all the blessings that have been bestowed upon us, and that is something I can absolutely get behind - with a glad heart.  I honestly believe that living in gratitude is the key to long term happiness in life.  I do.

So as a teacher I think it behooves us to take a moment or two in class and talk about things we are grateful for - instead of just focusing on turkey and football.  In a pulic school you will want to make sure to keep religious overtones out of the discussion to every extent possible, of course.  Personally I believe that gratitude and giving thanks are universal human emotions that do not need to be linked to any particular religion.

Yes, the kids might not really get the idea.  They might tell you they are grateful for Xbox, getting to sleep late on Thursday, and not having any homework.  That's okay.  Baby steps, amigos, baby steps.

The graphics here are for you to use if you wish.  I made them from clip art I found on the web and modified for use in my classroom.  I hope you find a use for them and I hope your holiday is blessed.

Hasta pronto,