Tuesday, March 31, 2015

El Examen Nacional de Español

The National Spanish Exam . . . It's that time of year again, folks.  My students are testing today and tomorrow, and we have taken over the media center for three days.  This does not make you popular with your fellow faculty, let me tell you.  But, as we say in Spanish with a shrug, "¿Qué remedio?"

Achievement tests, like the SAT and the NSE, are hard for students who are accustomed to getting good grades.  They like to see numbers in the high 90s on their papers, and when the NSE raw score shows they got a 68% I almost have to call an ambulance for them.  I try to explain, "It's an achievement test, not a mastery test.  You aren't supposed to know all of this material.  Sixty eight percent really isn't bad at all."  But the looks of skepticism they give me really say it all.

The hard thing for me is that my school gives the test to all the students who take Spanish.  They view it as a measure of teacher performance to some degree - and that is a lot of pressure.  Especially when one considers that most of the Spanish students in the nation do not take the test.  Seriously, when I attend the FLANC conference every fall, attendees get to put a big ribbon on their badge to show that they give the NSE.  I only ever see a small handful of folks wearing that ribbon.  And, at my old school only one teacher gave the test at all - and she paid out of pocket for her students to take the exam.  So, do you think she gave it to everyone?  Of course not!  She paid for only the best and brightest to take the test.  Now, multiply that trend across the nation, and you start to see just how competitive this test can be. 

But I'm not going to make myself crazy over it.  Some of my students will do well and others will not.  It is what it is. 

Do you give the NSE to your students?  If so, do you give it to all of them or just a select few?  I'd be curious to hear.

Hasta pronto, mis amigos.  ¡Que les vaya muy bien hoy!


Sunday, March 29, 2015

En los momentos en que no soy profesora, ¿quién soy?

I have a question for you.  At those times when you are not a Spanish teacher (or whatever your profession may be), what are you?

Don't get me wrong, please.  I am not complaining.  I know that, despite its challenges, teaching is a beautiful profession.  Teaching allows me to satisfy my intellect, connect with other people, pursue scholarly interests, use my creativity, and do something that makes a difference.  There are few, if any, professions that can offer that.

Still, there are times when I get utterly lost in all the demands of my job.  These are the times when I am so involved in teaching, and all the side jobs that accompany it, that I lose sight of who I am.  Do you know the feeling?  You get up early and go to school; you immediately get to work; you give it your best all day long; you bring home projects to grade; and you spend your time after dinner planning, writing rubrics, answering parent emails, and attending the basketball game . . . . and on it goes.  I start to feel like a machine that simply churns out grades, signed passes, and lesson plans.

So, I'm back to my question: when I am not a Spanish teacher, what am I?

In addition to being a mother and a wife, I am a member of a church, a blogger, a dabbling graphic artist, and a maker of things.  By that last part, I mean that I get great joy from creating - knitting, crochet, painting, jewelry making, and that sort of thing.  My latest interest is polymer clay.  I'm just beginning with it, but I can see an immense potential for creative expression there.

Today I made a necklace that included a small polymer clay sculpture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The necklace itself is inspired by Santeria, which is a religion that mingles elements of voodoo with Catholicism. 

I let my imagination and creativity lead the way and I think the result was quite nice.  It certainly makes a statement - a strong one.  This will be on display today at a local craft fair where I hope it will draw some attention and some comments.  And it's nice to answer questions about design, technique, and artistic self-expression.  (More fun to talk about than preterite vs. imperfect!)

So, though this blog is (sadly) not a hotbed of conversation, I invite you to leave a comment below to express who you are at those moments when you are not a teacher.  What is it that makes you uniquely you?

Hasta pronto,


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tarjetas Con Los Interrogativos

¡Hola Amigos!  I realized my Thursday beginners' class needed some extra practice with the interrogatives last week, so I decided to put together some cards for them to use in today's class.  I figured I would share them here, even though they are easy to make, just in case someone out there can use them.  Download the Spanish Interrogatives Flash Cards here.


I used these in class as a memory matching game and a game (with no name) that involves grabbing the correct card faster than your partner.  In order to play Memory with these cards, I had to print them on separate sheets.  However, I mirrored the cards so that you could print them front/back in order to use them as flash cards.  If your copy machine is good, they should line up correctly - just make sure not to print one side upside down or they won't line up right at all.

My goal today was to focus on the meaning of the words, not the grammar.  For that reason I did not include the plural quiénes or cuáles.  And, I did not include any of the inflected forms of cuánto.  Nor did I include de dónde because it really is not a separate word or a separate idea in my mind.  There will be time for us to hammer out the grammar specifics of the inflected forms of the interrogatives soon enough. 

I did include the word hay - even though it is not technically an interrogative.  My beginning students never ever seem to remember the word hay in the long term and it is so important.  Furthermore, it is one of the first ways they learn to form questions, so I put it in the stack as an extra review.  If you want to leave it out, that will not offend me in the slightest.

And, on a completely different topic, I'm still loving the spring.  It was 72 degrees here today!  (That's 22 degrees for my friends from around the world.)  So I found a lovely little quote together with some stock photography and presto - classroom graphic.

I downloaded about a dozen new fonts today because I'm feeling the graphic design monkey on my back, so I'm likely to have more classroom graphics in the coming days.

Feliz viernes, amigos.  ¡Que tengan un lindo fin de semana!

Hasta pronto,


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sol, Solecito, Caliéntame Un Poquito

I'm thinking of warmer weather today and I'm taking a moment to appreciate the sunshine as it streams through my window.

This little rhyme is traditional and it has such a positive feeling to it that I can't help but smile.  Additionally, it is actually a nice little teaching tool.  We have some very basic vocabulary that beginning students may already know: sol, un poquito, hoy, mañana, toda la semana.  It also gives us the chance to talk about diminutives: solecito, poquito. 

So I found some stock photography and made a little graphic to share with my beginners' class on Thursday.  Ironically, it is supposed to rain all day Thursday.  Such is my luck.

I hope, wherever you might be, that you are emerging from the grip of winter into spring's gentle embrace.  ¡Qué linda es la primavera!

Hasta pronto,


Friday, March 20, 2015

Palabras Afines: Bailando

Bailando by Enrique Iglesias has been the big Spanish-language hit on the recent charts.  My students begged me to buy it and I read the lyrics and originally determined that it was not appropriate for the classroom.  But, upon further thought, I changed my mind.  Ultimately I decided that: 1) There probably wasn't a teen on the planet who hadn't already heard the song a hundred times already and 2) The mention of beer and tequila was no more of an endorsement than all the commercials my students regularly see when watching sporting events on television.

I have an adult class of beginners (novice low) in a local community college on Thursday nights, so I decided to use the song to make an activity for them on the topic of cognates.  This activity is easy and it highlights a lot of cognates in the language, making the point that there is already a lot of Spanish that my students know before they even begin to study.  (Even the wrong answer choices are cognates, so it will give you plenty of examples to work with.)  You can download it here.

Bailando Cognates Activity by AnneK at Confesiones y Realidades Blog

Is the activity appropriate for middle or high school students?  Well, I deleted the words "cerveza" and "tequila" in the song; that helps.  If you play it, there is likely to be someone in the room who either notices the words or knows the song well enough in English to point it out.  And, I am not unaware of the fact (ironic though it is) that deleting something draws more attention to it than just leaving it alone in the first place.  But, for better or for worse, there is nothing on the paper about alcohol.

One might argue that there is some sexually suggestive language in the song.  Yes, and the counter argument would be that is only one interpretation of the lyrics and furthermore the song is in a language that the students do not grasp well enough for such things to come through.

Would I use this activity with my high school students?  If I talked to my principal first, yes.  I would lay out some ground rules and express my expectations to the students before we began the activity.  (The same talk I give them when we have to deal with poner in the preterite.)  Would I use this activity with middle school students?  No, I would not.

Still . . . proceed with caution.  No song, no activity, no lesson is worth your professional integrity.  So, if you feel this song and this activity is not appropriate for your class and your students; do not use it. 

All of that said, I love the song.  I think it is very singable and danceable, and it has a tune that won't get out of your head.  I love the repetitive "contigo" parts especially.

Have a great Friday and an even greater weekend, amigos.

Hasta pronto,


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Formación del Subjuntivo - Sub Lesson

I was called on the phone one day last week and told that I had to come get my son from school - pink eye, it turns out.  It required a doctor's visit and there was no one available that day to take him except for me.  That meant that I was away at a moment's notice and sub plans were needed.

I had lesson plans for the day, of course.  But I cannot expect a last-minute substitute to be proficient in Spanish or able to provide my students with a proper review of the present subjunctive.  And my so-called "emergency lesson plans" are just one step above busy work.  Sure, they are about Spanish and they are relevant in a way . . . but we were preparing to go on spring track-out and I didn't want to waste time with busy work.  We are reviewing for the National Spanish Exam and they needed something that would help prepare them for that - not just keep them in their seats and quiet for 50 minutes.

I put this review of present subjunctive together on the fly while I waited for my son's doctor's appointment.  It is nothing fancy or inspiring.  There is no cultural context and there is nothing very clever about it.  But it fit the bill perfectly for my emergency need.  I wanted my students to review the present subjunctive forms - regulars, irregulars, and tricky CAR-GAR-ZAR verbs.

Here it is, in case you have an emergency and need a practice for your students.  Heck, put it in your emergency sub folder, if you like.  The sub can copy it and hand it out, even if (s)he doesn't speak a lick of Spanish.


I put a mystery phrase into the puzzle too - trying to be funny or clever, I suppose.  It is La clase de español es fantástica.  Students who have correctly filled out the rest of the puzzle will have 10 of the 27 letters in the phrase.  Several of mine did indeed figure it out on their own, so it's not impossible.  And, in case you or your substitute need it, I'm providing the answer key too.


I do hope that you don't have any need for emergency lesson plans.  But, at least for me, it seems like something or another comes up about once per semester - so it is always good to have something on hand.

Hasta pronto,


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Feliz Día de San Patricio

Feliz Día de San Patricio, amigos.  Did you remember to wear green today?  I am about half Irish, but unfortunately I know nothing about that side of my heritage - well, apart from those stereotypes that are so pervasive.  I will be cooking up some colcannon for dinner tonight and there may or may not be Irish coffee on the menu.

It is not likely that Saint Patrick will be much of a topic in your normal Spanish classes, but I recall that we talked about Saint Patrick when I taught in Catholic school.  I took stock art and made a little graphic that you can use in your classroom, if you like.

I also found an article online about Saint Patrick's Day in Spanish at Muy Historia.  It is short, to the point, and not terribly advanced.  With proper scaffolding, your late Spanish 2 students can read it.  It should pose little to no trouble for Spanish 3 and up.

¡Que la suerte de los irlandeses esté con ustedes!


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Grab Bag


I saw this in English yesterday and figured it needed to be translated to Spanish.  So I did.

It's one of those rare jokes that is easy to understand in the foreign language and is also funny.  The kids will like the meme faces too.

More Targeted Advertizing

How do they know this about me?  What information of mine is out there that these advertisers have access to?

Do you get ads like this in your browser sidebar too?  Eerily accurate.

Teach Away Update and Head Scratching

Well, the folks at Teach Away have me stumped.  I filled out their forms and applications, sent in my documents, and got references from people who think I walk on water.  Once you've filled out everything, you apply for the jobs you are interested in by simply clicking the button.  Easy and pain free, yes.  But, at the same time, you get no chance to make a personal connection.  I think that is very important when it comes to teachers.  I figured there would be an interview process to accomplish that, right?

Apparently I was not good enough even for an email for three of these jobs.  I went over there today and saw "application closed" next to my listing.  Well!  Part of me wants to call them up and take them to task.  Hello!  I'm a native speaker of this language and I've taught it professionally for years.  I write my own materials; I publish a teaching blog, I'm fluent in two other languages.  I am a certified teacher with years of experience.  The NBPTS is the highest level of teacher certification that exists in the United States!!  Hello?  Hello?!  Anybody home?

It is probably because I do not hold the TEFL/TESL certificate that is offered by University of Toronto - the Teach Away business partner.  If that's it, then I will play ball.  I'm happy to go through their coursework to prove that I'm a worthy candidate . . . I just wish I knew for sure, you know?  If it is something else (my nationality, my age, my gender, the fact I have a school-age child . . . ) - something I cannot control, then I don't want to take classes that are not going to promote my career.  But, if they just mark my application "Closed" without talking to me, then I don't know what I need to do to make myself a more attractive candidate.

Spring Break

Track-out is two weeks long this time around, instead of three, because of snow days.  Still, two weeks off is great.  I'm grateful for some time off, to be sure.  I had that hellish last day of the quarter where everyone and their best friend was bringing me make-up work along with sob stories . . . and I'm such a softie, I always take the make-up work.

The best thing, after going through the hellish last day of the quarter, is waking up the next day and realizing it's track-out and I can relax for a few weeks.


I hope every little thing is going well for you, amigos.  Drop me a line and say hi sometime, okay?

Hasta pronto,


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Teach Away

So, come January I will have been teaching at my current school for ten years.  Yes, that's right - a whole decade.

I love my school and my students.  I have everything I need to do my teaching effectively.  My administrators are competent and supportive and my colleagues are great.  But, the thing is, I'm not advancing and I'm not learning anything new.

I think I could probably stay right where I am until I retire - still teaching the same vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, conversation, and culture . . . forever.  I'm sure they would continue to offer me a contract every year and I would continue to do what they need me to do.  But I'm starting to get a little antsy and I'm feeling the tug of change.

What I really want to do is go to Brazil and teach English, but finding jobs there isn't easy.  I have an ESL endorsement and several years of ESL experience.  I also have a masters degree in foreign language education, NBPTS certification, and I've taught abroad in Japan, Mexico, and Argentina.  So I think I'm a good candidate.  But where does one go to find the jobs?

Online, obviously.  And so I came across Teach Away.  This looks like a reputable organization so I have jumped through the hoops.  I have given them my information, my resume, my picture, copies of my transcripts and my teacher's license, and I have requested references from my principal and my supervisor at Wake Technical Community College (much to their panicked chagrin - which I take as a compliment).

Teach Away does not have any jobs in Brazil - something I might have liked to know before I jumped through all the hoops.  But they have jobs in the Middle East - lots of them, and folks over there are seriously paying for the best teachers.  It's tempting and I did throw my digital hat into the ring for consideration for a couple of them.  It would be exciting to learn a new language and live in a new culture.

They also offer TESL certification from the Teach Away site . . . which makes me wonder whether I will be expected to go through their certification process before they will seriously consider me for a job.  I don't mind doing that, to be honest, but it is costly.  If I knew for a fact that they would hook me up with a well-paying job abroad, I would go through it without a second thought.

But for now, I'm in the world of second thoughts.  I'm not sure what is in my near future but, as I said above, I feel the tug and I know it is time for me to start looking into options.  In the meantime, if you hear about anything for certified teachers in Brazil, please hook me up.

Hasta pronto,


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Oh So Oso

Remember back when I said I was nearing the end of the osos?  Yeah . . . obviously I didn't know what I was talking about.

Here's the new batch.

Hope your Friday is fabulOSO, amigos.

Hasta pronto,


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Es Obvio Que Necesito Estos Zapatos

I bought some dresses for my daughter at Mod Cloth for Christmas, and now I get these little ads from them in the margins of my webpages.  The ads don't bother me because they keep the Internet free and usually they show me things that I'm interested in. 

In fact, it's a little scary just how accurate these targeted ads can be.  Obviously I need these shoes.


These shoes look like a must-have for Spanish teachers, but there is a falta de plata situation right now so they will have to wait.

Hasta pronto,


Monday, March 2, 2015

Un Osito Más

I think I am nearing the end of the osos because I am running out of good clip art.  But I knew that precioso had to come about.  The hard part was finding the most precious of the precious bears out there. 

I think I succeeded.  It is my opinion that this is the most precious of all the precious bears on the Internet.  I even gave him a triple border to highlight his preciousness.

Hope it's a good Monday, amigos!

Hasta pronto,


Sunday, March 1, 2015

¡Necesitamos Pollo!

No sooner do I blog it, then it materializes before my very eyes!

You might need to read yesterday's blog post to understand why I'm so fascinated to come across this little funny today on Pinterest.

It is a small and strange world, amigos.  Se lo juro.

Hasta pronto,