Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Prevención de la Gripe

It's flu season again and I thought it would be a good idea to discuss preventative measures with my students - in Spanish, of course.  I went online and found an example of authentic text online at espanol.flu.gov that explains, in fairly direct language, what preventative measures a person can take to avoid coming down with the flu.

Being the teacher that I am, of course I had to take it and make it into an activity.  I glossed some of the key words that I felt students needed to understand and then I created a couple of comprehension activities.   I arranged the activities from order of easy (draw pictures to show you comprehend) to medium (identify good and bad advice) to more difficult (answer the questions in Spanish).


I am going to use the article in my two community college classes (with adult learners), and with my Spanish V, Spanish IV, and Spanish III students this week.  Even with all the scaffolding in the world, I think this activity would just be a frustration to my Spanish II students.  There is a great deal of medical vocabulary (antivirales, medicamentos antifebriles, polva para inhalar. . . ), formal commands, and several examples of the subjunctive. 

I thought it was a good article of a nice length and I was pleased with how the activities turned out, so I figured I would share it here.  Ideally, my students will learn how to better take care of themselves and will also learn some Spanish at the same time.

I hope you get you and your students stay healthy this flu season, and I hope this article will be of some benefit to you.

Hasta pronto,


Saturday, October 25, 2014

El Perro Me Comió La Tarea

There are times when I give out homework passes to students - to reward extra credit, to give a student some control as to when they might need a night off from homework, or for other reasons.  Some colleagues of mine use homework passes at the beginning of the quarter to give students some flexibility - to avoid receiving a zero on forgotten homework, for example.

Years ago I saw a cute little homework pass that read "The dog ate my homework" and that brought a smile to my lips.  I decided to do something similar for my own homework passes, but in Spanish of course.


To save paper, I fit four of them to a sheet.  There is a space at the bottom where it says "firma" and this is where you sign the homework passes to validate them.  You don't want some entrepreneurial student of yours to photocopy them, of course.  For increased security, you can copy them on special paper.

There are directions on the pass for use, students write their name on the pass and the name of the homework they want to skip.  Then they staple it to the homework and turn it in with the rest of the stack.  Then, while you are grading, you will come across the paper and you can take care of it right then and there.  That is the theory anyway, your mileage may vary.  :-)

I try to save these for very special occasions - partly because I want them to be a big deal, but mostly because I try only to give homework that I feel is important and, because of that, I really don't want students to skip it.

Use them well, amigos!

Hasta pronto,


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Venta de Quesadillas

I'm exhausted . . . no lie.  Our chapter of Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica decided to raise awareness for National Hispanic Heritage Month and earn some money for our local food bank by making and selling quesadillas during lunch.

Everything should have gone splendidly except for the fact that our quesadilla sale last week got preempted due to a vehicle injury prevention program.  (The one that sets up an accident scene at your school with real firefighters and police coming in with sirens and all manner of hoopla.  It was something else!)  So we had a lot of perishables (cheese, sour cream, salsa. . . ) on hand and we had to reschedule at the last minute. 

And there was more chaos.  Our location was being used by National English Honor Society, so a new place had to be found. Cooking spray had been forgotten by someone so a frantic run to the supermarket had to be made.  Then there was all the mayhem involved with young folks crammed into a tight space with two hot griddles, a stack of money, and the necessity of keeping the food preparation area clean and sanitized.  Whew!

The call went out on the intercom and students flocked to the area and formed a long line . . . and we got to work.  We sold more than 60 quesadillas, which is impressive at a school our size - especially considering that we had to hold the event last-minute at another time and date without any sort of advertising or promotions. 

The good news is that the money was raised for our local food bank and everyone had a great time.  

This is my daughter (above), posing reluctantly, while enjoying her own quesadilla and enough sour cream for three people!  (Isn't my desk a mess?) 

I am so impressed with my students.  The idea was theirs, the organization was done primarily by them, and they maintained a great attitude throughout.  Everyone enjoyed the food and folks are hoping that we will make this a yearly event.  I think I might have the best students on the planet.  

Hasta pronto,


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vocabulary Dice

"Vocabulary dice?" I hear you ask.

Why yes!  I found this idea on Pinterest and thought to myself that it would be a good one for Spanish vocabulary.  So I put some thought to it and re-created the idea for Spanish class.

The idea is that students practice their vocabulary together in novel ways - like drawing pictures and acting it out.  There is also linguistic practice like making sentences and definitions too.  I also put one on there that prompts them to spell the word out loud.  These sorts of activities stimulate the brain in unique ways that we don't always do in a typical foreign language classroom, and this can help students remember the vocabulary better than just doing the same activities over and over.

I have students draw a card, roll the die, then try to communicate the vocabulary word to their partner.  This has gained approval from my high schoolers and my adult learners at community college alike.  It's just nice to do something a little different once in awhile, right?

So here is a copy of the vocabulary dice template for you to download and print. 


Learn from my experience, and make your dice at least a day ahead of time so that they will be dry and (relatively) solid.  (Yeah, dice wet with glue are not a good experience for anyone. . . )

And, here are some vocabulary cards for you too.  It is a set of reflexive verb cards, but you don't have to use these if you don't want to.  You could make cards for just about anything.  Keep in mind that some will need to be drawn and others acted out, so plan accordingly when choosing your vocabulary.

There are three blank cards with the set.  Either write your own vocabulary terms on them or, for more creative fun, allow students to choose their own word when they draw a blank card.

If you do this in class and have fun, I'd love to hear from you!  Don't be quiet - professional connections and collaboration are fun.

Hasta pronto,


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chistes Gráficos para Halloween

I like to start each class with something that will bring a smile to my students' faces - whether it's a joke, a funny video, or a silly picture, it is nice to get things off in a friendly way.

To that end I looked at the calendar and saw that there are exactly fifteen school days left until Halloween, and I did some looking online to find funnies.  Easier said than done!  I found a lot that wouldn't translate well, others that don't cross the cultural barrier, and oodles of them that were wildly inappropriate for the classroom.

Ultimately I found fifteen and translated them into Spanish to share with my students.  I figured I would share them here with you too.


I am not the copyright holder to any of these images.  I have compiled there here for use in the classroom for educational purposes.

Happy Halloween, amigos!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

La Colaboración - Google Docs

Today on Twitter I stumbled across a very interesting tweet about commercials in Spanish, and by clicking here and there I came across something wonderful - a shared document put together by Spanish teachers working collaboratively.  When someone finds a commercial they want to share, they write a transcript, and then paste the commercial URL and the transcript to the bottom of the document.  Then, everyone who accesses it can benefit from the contributions of others.  You can pop in, copy it for yourself, make a cloze activity for your class and it was so easy.  Wow.  Mind blown.

I do not know if it breaks some unwritten rule to post the URL to the shared document here or not . . . I read the introduction to the document and there wasn't anything there about keeping it a secret, so here goes:


If you are going to use their work, consider transcribing and linking a commercial yourself.  Being a contributor is a lot more fun than being a user - and you can brag to your colleagues and your administrators about your professional collaborations.   :-) 

I think someday, maybe someday soon, this sort of collaboration will be so common that this post of mine will be outdated and of no interest whatsoever.  That would actually be a good thing - seeing teachers from all over work together toward student enrichment and sharing their ideas and inspirations with one another.  We can hope!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

El Imperfecto del Subjuntivo

There are some really great things about teaching Spanish 4.  One of them is that, by the time students have come that far, they have a very good working knowledge of the underlying structure of the language.  I only have to tell them what the endings are for the verbs, and they are off and running  - making creative sentences and astounding me with their cleverness.

So it is with the imperfect subjunctive.  We review the preterite irregulars quickly - usually in game form, then I give them the rules for creating the imperfect subjunctive and presto!  What a great group of students I have!  No need to belabor the grammar, just explain it once and let them use it as a tool for communication.

The imperfect subjunctive is especially cool because it allows us to talk about the things that could be, should be, and might be if only things were different.  And these days, memes with the imperfect subjunctive abound.  I thought I'd find a couple to share with them so they could see the language in action and, while I was at it, I figured I'd share them here too.


It is the perfect lead in to a discussion about the sequence of tenses and, with this many authentic examples, students can probably discover the pattern (imperfect subjunctive + conditional) for themselves.

These make great writing prompts and it's fun to create a chart afterwards to show what ideas people have in common.  For example you could ask, ¿Si tuvieras tres deseos que pedirías?  Then chart how many people chose money, love, altruistic ideas (cure for cancer, world peace, etc.).  It's fun!

Si tuvieras que enseñarles el imperfecto del subjuntivo a tus estudiantes, ¿qué harías?

Hasta pronto,


Sunday, October 5, 2014

¿Trabajamos sin Pago?

My cousin Nancy Elliot, a fellow teacher, shared this with her friends on Facebook:

This struck a chord with me because it is all too true.  Teachers everywhere are putting in long hours without any overtime pay, annual bonus, or any hope of a promotion.  They do it because they care about excellence and because they want the best for their students.

I work late sometimes when I'm jazzed up about a project or a lesson that I think will bring authenticity and/or fun to my lessons.  (It's great when fun and learning coincide, which isn't always easy - you have to work for that.)  I work late when I have a lot of projects or tests to grade and my students want to know their grades the next day.  I work late when it's college application time and my students need recommendation letters.  I also work late to prepare for enrichment activities that make school more relevant and fun for my students - making sugar skulls for Day of the Dead, crafting paper flowers for a cultural display, gathering ingredients and materials for cooking lessons, and so much more.

Why do you do it?  Why do you work late without any hope for recognition or recompense?  Share your response in the comments if you like.

Hasta pronto,


Saturday, October 4, 2014

FLANC 2014

I just dragged myself home after a whirlwind weekend of language, learning, and loving!  The FLANC Conference was awesome!  It is so exhilarating to get out of the usual routine and to reconnect with my love of the Spanish language and my love of teaching.

If you have never been to a conference because it's too expensive or because you are too busy, I beg you to reconsider and to make it a priority.  Put a little money and some time aside so that you can go.  There is an amazing synergy that happens when so many dedicated and motivated professionals get together and share their ideas and their knowledge.  The energy is almost tangible.

I made a funny little meme to share with you . . .

Ha!  It's not too much of an exaggeration.  I have so many new ideas in my head that I can't wait to get started . . . but I will have to, because I have been going strong for two and a half days powered only on caffeine, sugar, and excitement.

I hope to have some time to post about all these great tools and ideas I got in the coming weeks.

Hasta entonces, amigos . . .