Saturday, November 30, 2013

Banderas en Blanco

I was going through some files on my old computer when I came across this page I put together with uncolored flags of the Spanish-speaking world.  All 20 of them are there and I put eight of them to a page, so they fit on three sheets of paper.  If you look closely, the name of the country is written in light grey text on the lower-right corner of each flag.  Click here or on the image below to download the file.

So what can you do with them?  I can think of a lot of things but one of the easiest and most obvious activity would be for students to research the colors of the flags themselves online (or in their textbooks) and color them correctly.  Then they could put them on a large map in your classroom.

But then I got to thinking of a game that would be fun.  Review colors and shapes vocabulary with the students before you begin.  Then, have students work in pairs back-to-back so that they can't see what their partner is doing.  Give one student the blank flags and a box of colored pencils.  Give the other student a textbook or a webpage (Hooray for iPads in my class!) with the colors of the flags shown.  The students need to communicate - in Spanish - to get the flags colored in as best they can.  When they are finished, they should check their work.  They will probably have a good laugh too, and learning is best when it is fun.

I hope you get some good use from this, amigos. 

Hasta pronto,


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Los Colores Brillantes de México

One of the great things about being a Spanish teacher is the rainbow of colors!  I love bright colors and I also love that it's okay for me to fill my classroom with colorful textiles, piñatas, paper mache, papel picado, and whatever else I get my hands on.

Today I was browsing some photos of Mexico and I was delighted by all the colors in them, so delighted that I decided to create a Power Point presentation to showcase all the bold color of the culture.

The photos are not mine originally.  They are all available for use through Creative Commons with attribution, so I took the time to attribute each photographer with their name and a link to their Flikr page.  I am deeply grateful to these photographers who have graciously agreed to share their work which, in turn, makes it easier for me to do mine.

Wouldn't this be a great last-minutes-of-class activity, especially now that we are getting into the dark colorless time of year?  Download the Power Point and bring some bright and vivid color to your lessons!  I hope you and your students enjoy it.

Déjenme comentarios, amigos.  Me hacen muy feliz.

Hasta pronto,


Monday, November 25, 2013

Pavos con Verbos - Otra Vez

Two years ago (Has it really been that long?) I blogged about a little project that I sometimes do with my students this time of year which I call "Verb Turkeys."  It is a creative conjugation practice activity with a Thanksgiving theme.  You can read the original post by clicking here, if you'd like.

Back then I had only just discovered Dropbox but I had little to no idea how to use it.  I spent hours trying to figure out how to upload my Power Point with the student instructions, but I wasn't able to figure it out.  I went back and updated the post today so it now has the link.

The language of the Power Point is in Spanish with step-by-step pictures so that the students can understand exactly what they need to do without resorting to giving them the instructions in English.  I also have some examples of student work in the Power Point as well.

Nowadays I can manage Dropbox well and I can't live without it in my classroom.  I have placed the Verb Turkeys Power Point there and you can download it here, or by clicking on the picture above.

The project is appropriate for students in middle or high school at beginning and intermediate levels.  (Elementary school students might be able to do it with a lot of scaffolding, provided they have already learned verb conjugation.)

I hope you can get some use out of it, amigos.   And it's always great to hear from you, so please leave a comment if you have the time or inclination.

Hasta la próxima,



This is my 100th blog post, amigos.  And I figured I ought to do something really remarkable to celebrate this milestone, so I have decided that I am going to put together a list of . . . 100 Amazing Craft Ideas for Spanish Class!

Fantástico, ¿no?   Let's go!

Día de los Muertos
By far, the largest group of projects to be found online have to do with Day of the Dead.  I've included a diversity of projects here, but there are thousands more out there similar to these.

Day of the Dead - Papel Picado
Q-Tip Skeleton
Calaveras Sandwich Art
Paper Plate Calavera
Miniature Ofrendas for Day of the Dead
"Life and Death" Calavera Planters (Image Only)
Wire Calaveras (Picture Only)
Día de los Muertos Felt Banner
"Skullflake" Tutorial 
Catrina Face Paint (Several Videos) 
Crochet Calavera

Navidad and Winter Holidays
The winter holidays are religious in the Spanish-speaking world: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Christmas (Posadas), and Three Kings Day.  Consider your student population before you choose any of these crafts.

King's Day Shoe Craft (in Spanish)
Three Kings Popsicle Stick Puppets
Three Kings Paper Chain with Template
Handmade Nativity Scene
Farolitos DIY (in Spanish)
Las Posadas Coasters
Advent Calendars
Our Lady of Guadalupe Poncho Craft

Artist-Inspired Crafts
Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Salvador Dalí never cease to inspire Spanish and art teachers alike.
Miró-Inspired Mural
Picasso-Style Portraits
3 Dimensional Picasso Portraits
Melted Dalí Clocks 
Salvador Dalí Mustache Portraits
"Roll a Miró" Dice/Art Activity
How to Draw Frida Kahlo 
3 Dimensional Miró (Video)

Paper flowers are some of my favorites.  Here is a link to a post I made a few weeks ago about paper flowers, in case you missed it.  And the following are other flower crafts that relate to the Spanish-speaking world, each in their own way.

Paper Flowers
Verb Flower with Petal Labels
Noun and Pronoun Flower (Convert to Spanish)
Paper Spanish Roses
Origami Poinsettia

Wildlife of Central and South America
Central America and The Amazon have some of the most colorful and interesting creatures on Earth.  It's no wonder there are so many class crafts dealing with them.

Scarlet Macaw
Blue Morpho Butterfly
Clothespin Chameleon Instructions (in Spanish) and Picture 
Clothespin Snake Instructions (in Spanish) and Picture
How to Draw Monarch Butterflies

The Sun
I always knew the sun was important, of course, but I had no idea I would come across so many sun-themed projects when I started my search.

Aztec Sun Stones
Metallic Sun Sculpture
Mexican Folk Art Sun
Aztec Sun Circle and Weaving

Jewelry and Clothing
Everyone loves something to wear!

Embroidery Floss Friendship Bracelets
Lucha Libre Mask
Make a Poncho
Emossed Painted Clay Beads
Peruvian Wave Bracelet
Chilean Shell Necklace
Peruvian Thread Earrings (With Video)

Cultural Coloring Pages 
Coloring pages make great extra credit activities and they require just some crayons or markers for supplies.  I leave them with the substitute teacher in case my early finishers have nothing to do for the last fifteen minutes of class.

Hispanic Role Models Coloring Pages
Flags of Latin America Coloring Pages 
Mesoamerican Art Coloring Pages

I honestly could have linked 100 class-friendly recipes, if I had wanted to.  There is a LOT of Mexican food out there on the web along with some good Spanish and South American foods too.  These particular recipes caught my eye because they relate to other class topics easily.

Mexican Flag Vegetable Plate
Champurrado - Mexican Hot Chocolate
Hacer Guacamole (Video en Español)
Rosca de Reyes Recipe

And these 40+ crafts that follow, do not fit into any particular category.  I am sure you will find something there that will meet your needs if you are searching for a cultural craft project for your Spanish students.

Guatemalan Worry Dolls
Huichol Yarn Paintings
20 Ways to Make Piñatas
Musical Maracas
Mexican Dancer Doll
Papel Amate (Bark Painting)
Construction Paper MolasMicography Word Portraits
Mexican Metal Tooling
Art Prints (with Styrofoam)
Aztec Warriors Art Project
Chalk Adobe Paintings
Fruit Crate Still Life
Mini PiñatasBody Parts Art Project
Embossed Tin Heart
Paper or Fabric Fans
Terra Cotta Bull
Graphic Boot Verbs (Image Only)
Mexico Topographic Map (And other projects!)
Portraits with Verbs Like Gustar (Image Only)
Comic Strip Maker
Talavera-Inspired Ceramics (Requires Kiln)
Wanted Poster (Image Only)
Verb Conjugation Foldable
Paper Buildings in Town
South America Cork Board and Flag Pins
Explosion Book
Fiesta Rosettes and Señorita Dolls
Graphically Illustrate Song Lyrics (Image Only)
Gustar Heart Mapping (Convert to Spanish)
Rainsticks Craft and Lesson
Guatemalan KiteCosta Rican Ox Cart
Domincan Decorative Plate
Miniature Woven Rugs
Paper Bag Puppets (in Spanish) and a Puppet Theater (in Spanish)
Mexican Independence Craft (Video)
Cardboard Cactus (Follow Pictures, Instructions in Chinese)

I have been working on this list now for hours and hours and hours.  This has become the blog post that took over my weekend, but I'm happy with the results.  I think this might just be the most useful post I have ever put together, simply due to the breadth of it.  There is a little bit of everything here - for the artsy teacher and the glitter-adverse teacher alike.  I'm hoping that my readers will be able to find something new every time they come so that they don't feel anchored to the same crafts year after year.

I'd love to hear from you!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lección - El Día de Acción de Gracias

Last year I put together a little lesson on Thanksgiving and put it up for sale over at Teachers Pay Teachers, a site that brokers teacher-created lessons, activities, and other goodies for fellow teachers to buy.  As they put it, teachers pay teachers - not big corporations or textbook companies.  It's a great idea, but getting the word out there about your product is hard, especially if one is not comfortable bringing it up constantly and tooting your own horn (and I'm not).

I put a lot of love into this lesson.  It contains a page of teacher instructions including standards and rationale, pre-reading questions, vocabulary, vocabulary practice, a Spanish reading (Spanish II or III level), reading comprehension questions, open-ended questions, and an extension activity involving a cultural comparison.  There is also an answer key.  If I do say so myself, I think it's a great lesson.

It's a bargain at $2.  When you think about it, preparing all of that (pre-reading, vocabulary, comprehension questions, writing the article, etc. . . .) it would take you about 2 or 3 hours.  If you paid yourself minimum wage, that would be more than $21 worth of your time - and we all know your time is worth a lot more than minimum wage.  Besides, $2 is half of what you would pay for a blended mocha with whip at your local coffee store.  And, unlike that fancy coffee, you will have this lesson for years to come, to use again and again.

Here is a link to an abbreviated sample of the lesson, if you would like to have a look for yourself before investing your two dollars.

And that is about all the self promotion that I am comfortable with at this time.  I did not start this blog to make money; I just want to interact with my colleagues in other places around the nation and the world.  But I thought I would make you aware of this product in case you are interested.  And if you choose to support me with your purchase, please know that I am very grateful.

Gracias amigos,


Friday, November 22, 2013

Día de Acción de Gracias

Today was our last day of class before our (much needed) Thanksgiving break.  I'm lucky to work at a school where we get the whole week of Thanksgiving off.  When you put the two weekends together with the five days off, it's a glorious nine days of rest.  This is especially nice because Thanksgiving is often such a big production involving travel and days of cooking and prep, that you actually need a vacation from it.  Irony, I suppose.

I didn't want to introduce new material today and I knew the students were tired and distracted, so I taught an abbreviated lesson then I saved the last twenty minutes of class to discuss Thanksgiving.  We needed some vocabulary to do it, so I put together a Power Point with pictures and vocabulary terms.  I love to introduce vocabulary this way because it minimizes the need for us to resort to English to communicate.  The only downside is that it often takes a long time to find all the best pictures, so I figured I would share the presentation here with my readers.  That way you don't have to invest that time.

The Power Point is not very long.  It just covers the basics of the traditions and favorite foods for Thanksgiving.  Feel free to add to it with the favorite foods and traditions of the region where you and your students live.  With this vocabulary, students will be able to engage in some conversation about the holiday - even beginners because you can stick to me gusta and no me gusta with them.

And to make things even more fun, I found this hilarious clip from the show Friends dubbed in Spanish.  Joey is attempting to eat a whole turkey and it made my students laugh out loud.

I hope you find these resources useful and that your students enjoy talking about Thanksgiving in Spanish.

Hasta pronto,


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Juego Divertido

I was thinking that I was some sort of game theory genius yesterday.  I had made up a vocabulary review game and my students loved it.  They got into it so much that I was worried that their enthusiasm was interrupting the class on the other side of the wall from us.  Then I shared the idea with my daughter (who is in Spanish III with another teacher) and she responds nonchalantly, "Oh yeah, we play a game like that in Ms. B's class."


Since the game was such a hit with Spanish II yesterday, I decide to play it today with Spanish IV and see if it is a success with them too.  And indeed it was!  Then a student comments to me, "We used to play a game just like this in Ms. C's room."

Wow.  So I'm not the genius that I thought I was, sadly. 

How is it that all these great games are out there and we aren't telling each other about them?  I'm guessing that our schedules as teachers are so full that we don't have ample time to sit down and discuss methods and techniques with one another.  Or perhaps we figure that our colleagues already have the same tools in their toolboxes that we do?  Regardless of the reasons, sharing knowledge and inspiration is the reason for this blog so I'm going to tell you about this original vocabulary review game so your students can have the same fun that mine did.

 The premise is simple; students race each other to recognize the vocabulary first on a paper filled with vocabulary words.  The first student to find the correct vocabulary term on the sheet colors it in with their marker.

With advanced students you can define the vocabulary term for them in Spanish and let them look for it on the sheet.   With intermediate-low students you can give hints, or opposites as clues.  With beginners you might just have to call out the words in English and let them look for the Spanish.  The game great fun, regardless.  All my classes gave it a thumbs-up.

One caveat to my fellow teachers of teens - the game gets intense as students are competing head-to-head.  So you will want to set some norms ahead of time.  ("No stabbing each other with markers" is a good one, I discovered.  *smile*)

Because I am so grateful for my followers and my visitors, I'm creating one for you to use in your classroom.  Click here to download it or click the picture above.  I put the nationalities vocabulary on this game because that is something that we will all find useful for beginning students (or as a review for more advanced speakers).  There are two copies of the same activity on the sheet, so copy them and cut them in half.  Save paper!  Or save more paper by laminating them and giving the students dry erase markers to play.  Then you can use them again and again.  (You could also put them in page protectors and use dry erase markers.)

For an extra challenge, call out the capitals of the countries and have the students find the nationalities that correspond.  Or simply call out the name of the country, but make sure to have fun with it, amigos!

Hasta la próxima,


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Polls Everywhere - Otra Vez

You might recall a post I made several weeks ago about a real-time interactive web tool called Polls Everywhere.  So, I wanted to take a quick minute and update you on another success I had with it this past week.

We are studying about Machu Picchu this week in class and I had a reading for the students, some pictures, a brief video, and some comprehension activities - all fairly standard fare for a foreign language class.  We got to the end of the lesson and I was three minutes away from the bell so, on a lark, I told my students to look up one fun fact about Machu Picchu and bring it to class tomorrow.  I reminded them to use reliable sources and set them free as the bell rang.

The next day I brought up my old favorite Polls Everywhere and had the students each text in their fun facts along with their names.  What a wealth of information it was!  We watched the screen as each person's fact came up and we learned so much together.  The really fun part was that because the students had selected the facts themselves, they naturally were the kinds of facts that students in their age group found interesting.

Today we had a surprise quiz on Machu Picchu and the grades were stellar.  Win win!

Here are the questions - just in case you might want to use them in your class when you study Machu Picchu.  Students are in Spanish II (A2 for you European folks out there.).

¿Cierto o falso?

1.   Machu Picchu es una ruina de una ciudad antigua.  Cierto
2.   Machu Picchu fue construido por los Aztecas.  Falso
3.   Machu Picchu está en Brasil.  Falso
4.   Machu Picchu es un sitio arqueológico muy importante.  Cierto
5.   Los conquistadores españoles descubrieron Machu Picchu.  Falso
6.   Machu Picchu está en los Andes.  Cierto
7.   Personas de todo el mundo visitan Machu Picchu.  Cierto
8.   Hay pirámides en Machu Picchu.  Falso
9.  Machu Picchu está dividio en tres sectores: agrículo, religioso, y urbano.  Cierto
10.  Las palabras "machu picchu" son de Quechua.  Cierto

Hasta pronto, amigos


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Círculos de Gratitud

Gratitude is one of the most transformative of all the virtues.  I believe at my very core that taking time to be grateful for the gifts and blessings in our lives is the path to true happiness.  Still, it is something that has to be learned.  We are not born as grateful creatures and, with all the blessings we enjoy in the modern world, it becomes easy to feel entitled instead of grateful.

Mr. Bob Luddy is an entrepreneur and a businessman in our city who is also the founder of our school.  By any metric, he is a successful person and he has chosen to give back to the community by building and funding schools in the Wake Forest and Raleigh metropolitan area of North Carolina.  It is an absolute joy and privilege to work where I do - at a school where education and the success of the students are still at the core of what we do.

 Mr. Luddy has given us a list of 12 objectives, which we call the Luddy Outcomes, that we are to teach to our students.  They are foundational principles of good living that include things like integrity, gratitude, critical thinking, among others.  These 12 outcomes are woven in as a part of the our lessons and as a supplement to the regular curriculum; they do not replace the state standards.

Since November is a time when we take time to give thanks as a nation, I thought it was a perfect time to work the Luddy Outcome of gratitude into our lessons.  We have been discussing (in Spanish to varying degrees in each of my classes) those things that are privileges in our lives and we have taken time to be consciously grateful for them.

One little mini project I gave my students was to write a gratitude statement in Spanish and then depict their ideas graphically.  The Spanish part of the project was done in class and I helped the students craft their statements and then gave them suggestions for corrections.  I also supplied a rubric and supplies for their artistic endeavors.  Most of the art was done outside of class so that we did not have to dip into our curriculum time to do the project.

Each of the students were given a quarter circle to do decorate. When I hung them up together, they form these neat circles which you can see on the picture above.  This idea came to me from a Pinterest post I saw.  Kudos to Ms. Thomas for her inspiration!

Each circle is the work of four different students - each with their own artistic inspiration and their own statement of gratitude.  The picture below is my favorite circle because it shows so much personality and diversity, yet it works together perfectly.  (I'm sorry it's a little crooked.  I'm not so great with the camera on my iPad yet.)

Math is not my strong suit and I wildly overestimated how many circles I would be able to put up on the bulletin board.  You can only see 24 of them on the board, but I had nearly 70 and about 50 of those would have been suitable for display.  If I do the project again next year, I'll make the circles a bit smaller so I can display more of them.

If you want to do gratitude circles of your own, I'm including a link to the template I used.  If you don't resize them, these will make big and impressive circles when you finish - but you won't have room to display all of them.  I'm putting the document up in .docx format so you can easily resize the graphic, change the values on the rubric, or change the steps to your liking.

One tip that I will offer you.  When I let the students know that I would choose some of them for extra credit based on their creativity, suddenly everyone became extra motivated and interested.

As always, if you use this in your class, I would love to hear from you.  It means a lot to me to know that my fellow teachers find value in what I put up here.

Hasta pronto,


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

No les gusta la tarea del fin de semana

Weekend homework is a reality some weeks and my students don't ever complain, God bless them!  But nobody wants to spend their days off working on irregular preterite, right?  I try to assign homework 1-2 times per week with my Spanish I and II classes and maybe 2-3 times per week with my honors classes - Spanish III and higher.  My school is not on a block schedule and I feel as though I have to be conscientious of the fact that my students have six other teachers who are also giving homework.

I hear a lot of stories about kids who stay up until the wee hours working and that doesn't seem right to me.  It seems like kids do more homework these days than I did when I was their age.

This vintage picture of King Kong ravaging a city (Tokyo, I'm guessing) made me think about how I used to feel when a teacher would give homework on the weekend, so I put the caption on there.  If weekend homework has to happen (and it does, sometimes), then at least we should be able to get a laugh out of it.

Hasta pronto, amigos.