Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cómo Hacer Una Prueba Oral

Sometimes I get bogged down in "covering material x" and I lose sight of what it is I'm supposed to be doing - teaching the beautiful Spanish language.  I'm betting that there are people out there that know what I mean.  It's not about covering the present perfect subjunctive and 5A vocabulary so much as it is giving students meaningful practice so that they can communicate in the language.

It occurred to me late last week that I need to do some more oral practice with my students and, at least in my case, to get that to happen they have to know that there is going to be an assessment to follow.  I decided that an oral quiz was in order.

I don't know how you do oral quizzes but I've always struggled with them.  Ultimately it would be great if I had coverage so that I could put a table out in the hall and meet with one student at a time in relative privacy and peace.  I don't have coverage and I hate to impose on my colleagues, so I have to come up with another approach.  Our French teacher has the students record their voices using an app on their iPads - and this is good.  But that measures pronunciation, not communication or fluency - because students will write themselves a script and just read it.  So what to do?

I give the class an activity to work on and I encourage them to work together with their friends completing it.  (Yesterday it happened to be a whoppin' big vocabulary crossword puzzles with clues in Spanish.  I made it myself and I'm quite proud of it actually.)  This gets them thinking in Spanish about the vocabulary and, as they work the volume in the room goes up a little.  Then I turn on the radio in the background and the volume in the room goes up a little more.  While all of that is going on, I begin to call students to my desk one at a time to do the oral quiz.  We get our one-on-one time and, with the white noise and the distraction of the group work going on in the background, it's surprisingly private.  I try to put students at ease by making friendly small talk before we get started and by offering a piece of candy from the candy bin when they are finished.

I think there is a special power in oral quizzes, but not for the communicative and linguistic reasons you might be thinking.  I honestly think any discipline could benefit from the one-on-one oral quiz format because I notice that when I do this the motivation of my students goes way up.  I theorize that it is due to the face-to-face nature of the quiz.  It is one thing to fail a quiz on paper in an impersonal way, but it is quite another to fail a quiz up close and personal while looking your teacher in the face.

My 4th period were so motivated that they formed little study groups and gave the oral prompts to one another over and over again to support and help each other practice.  They also did an outstanding job on the quiz, so clearly they are on to something.

Giveaway Update: I've had several comments from people who are interested in receiving a free copy of my Earth Day Communication lesson.  But there are two (actually three, if you want to be technical) things you must do to win the free lesson plan: 1) Subscribe to the blog, 2) Leave me a comment saying you want a copy before April 22 and 3) Send me an email address so I can send you the download link.  I'm not going to keep your email on file, share it with anyone, or send you any unwanted email whatsoever.  That is my solemn promise.  I just need a place to send the link so you can download it.

So far only one person has done this, so I still have at least four copies to give away.  

Hasta pronto amigos,


Monday, April 7, 2014

Shameless Self Promotion and a Giveaway!!


I have been focused lately on creating scaffolded conversation lessons.  The idea is to give students something culturally relevant (a picture, a piece of realia, a video clip, etc) along with some vocabulary and let them use their Spanish skills to describe it.  Then I provide a sample dialog that is on the same topic to practice their pronunciation.  The next step is key: the students then take the dialog and replace certain key words with others to create an original dialog on the same topic.  This gives them the support they need instead of just turning them loose with a vocabulary list and saying "Write a dialog in Spanish on this topic and be sure to use at least ten vocabulary words in it."  (Haven't we all been there at least once?)

The fun comes when they replace the words in the dialog with something funny or clever.  I had a pair in Spanish IV last Friday come up with the expression, "No puedo aguantar tu cara ni un minuto más."  That cracked me up and I literally burst into raucous laughter, which made class so much more fun than if I had just given them the "Write a dialog . . . " routine.

Over my spring break I told myself that I was going to create some new lessons for my Teachers Pay Teachers portfolio.  (I'm trying to save up some money to attend the ACTFL conference and that isn't going to happen if I don't produce some great materials for people to purchase.)  But I was plagued with strep throat and spent much of my two weeks just feeling miserable instead of being creative.  But I decided to remedy the situation yesterday by creating a conversation lesson, like the one I mentioned above, on the topic of Earth Day.

For a mere $2.50 you can get your students talking in Spanish about the Earth, the environment, and being responsible caretakers for our planet.  And here's the best part: I created three different versions of the lesson so that you can use it with your Spanish 1, Spanish 2, and your Spanish 3 students!  And, who knows, they might surprise you and come up with something that thrills and delights you in the process!

I don't have many followers here on this blog, a mere 20 of you for whom I am very thankful.  So I've decided to do a membership drive and a giveaway.  Between now and Earth Day (April 22) I will give this product away to five -or more- members who leave a comment below.  You need to be listed to the right as a follower of the blog and let me know who you are in the comments field.  Since I don't get much traffic through here, I might not get to give all five copies away but here's to hoping!

Have a brilliant Monday, amigos.  I hope to hear from you soon!

Hasta pronto,


Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Craftividad" Pintar Una Camiseta

¡Hola amigos!

I came across this adorable little "craftivity" today over at Zambombazo (which is a fabulous blog filled with activities and ideas for Spanish teachers). 

Since my theme this year is "Unleash Your Superhero" I figured this would be a great thing to share here.  And the best part is that the instructional video is entirely in Spanish!

I don't think I'd make the design by tracing the image on the screen like the video shows.  I think a better way would be to print the image and work from the print, but I'm not going to quibble or micromanage.  There are a lot of ways to do any given task.

This would be a great extra credit project to give students.  Make it clear that they have to watch the video and follow the instructions en español.

Es todo por hoy, amigos.  ¡Que tengan un lindo fin de semana!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

¡Me Quedo Muy Retrasada!

I'm so far behind, amigos.  I don't know exactly how it happens . . . one day, I'm going along just fine and doing what I'm supposed to do . . . then I turn around and all my laundry is dirty, the projects haven't been graded, there is nothing in the fridge, and I haven't blogged in over a month.

I'm not sure what has slowed me down - the bad weather (despite my premature declaration of spring), a bout with strep throat, and it seems as though some weeks all I do is drive my teenage daughter from one activity to another . . . but I apologize for being gone so long.  I do have some good things to share here and, hopefully, I'll get back on board the blog train.

Today I came across some funny photos and it occurred to me that they would make great conversation prompts.  These are probably best for your intermediate students as beginners would likely be completely stymied.

The topic of the photos is bad design, and you can't help but laugh at some of them!

Here are some activities that occurred to me, but there are plenty of others I'm sure you can think of too.

1. Make comparisons - Malo, peor, el peor
2. Use the conditional tense - ¿Qué pasaría al usar esta cuchara?
3. Describe the problem - La silla sería muy incómoda . . . El agua no podría salir de la regadera.
4. Think creatively!  Is there anything you could do with the object?  Se podría usar el vaso para las flores.  El botón podría ser un pisapapeles.
5. For fun, get students to design their own bad objects and describe them to each other in Spanish.

And that's it for me today, amigos.  I'll try to make a regular appearance until the end of the school year.

Hasta pronto,