Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Autoestima . . . ¡Vamos a Cultivarla!

As an adult, like everyone else, I naturally go through my ups and downs emotionally.  There are days when I am inspired and excited about everything going on around me.  Other days I don't feel like I have the emotional strength to drag myself back into the classroom.  I imagine that is normal and that most people can relate to it.

But, looking back on my teen years, I recall those emotional swings were much greater and those times when I was going through a negative phase were very bleak indeed.  As adults we have the benefit of experience and perspective, so we know that we can and will survive the pain we are going through.  We also have developed a "toolbox" of strategies that help us cope and get ourselves moving in a positive trajectory.   But teens do not have that experience, that perspective, or that toolbox.
The problem is compounded when we consider that many times our teen students are hearing negative messages from their classmates and even at home from their families.  Knowing this makes our jobs as teachers even more daunting in their immensity and importance.

Why?  Sometimes we are the only positive voices in the lives of our students.

It's tempting to make a quip, a joke, or to tell them to snap out of it.  And, to be fair, if it's something small that might be an appropriate response to some kids.  But most of the time, kids need someone to talk to and something positive to do with themselves.  This is one of the reason I am such an advocate of the arts in schools, but I digress.

In the meantime, I believe we need to cultivate self-esteem and positive self-talk.  And no, I'm not talking about the "everybody gets a trophy" sort of self-esteem training that gets such a negative response in the public arena.  I mean, "You are a valuable human being and your talents, opinions, and contributions are worthwhile."

 The challenge, and it's a big one, is being authentic and not some sort of talking doll at the front of the classroom.  Kids know when you are being real and they know when you are being fake; they honestly do.  So we have to make sure that we are speaking from the heart even if it makes us a little vulnerable and teary-eyed.  It makes a difference.

Here are some thoughts you might want to share with your classes, but don't forget to make a one-to-one connection with those students who need a boost of confidence too.

And please, don't forget these lessons for yourselves too, amigos.  Value yourself and your work as a teacher.  The observations, the tests, the data mining, the portfolios, the evaluations . . . you are much more than all of that put together and your work makes a difference in the lives of your students.

Con amor,


Monday, September 28, 2015

Conecta Cuatro - El Juego Tradicional (con verbos)

I was out and about on the web today looking at various games and mining for ideas.  I came across a couple of things, but one thing in particular caught my attention - Connect Four.  It's an old game, really as old as they come - the idea is to get four in a row while keeping your opponent from doing the same.

It occurred to me that this could be accomplished by conjugating verbs on a grid.  Why not?  I see teachers do this with Battleship and Tic Tac Toe all the time.

We are reviewing the preterite in my community college class, so this will be a great way to make the conjugation practice fun!  Click here or on the picture below to download this file.

 Conecta Cuatro by AnneK at Confesiones y Realidades

Students will each need a different color of ink to play.  They decide who goes first, and that person begins by conjugating a verb in one of the boxes.  The opponent does the same afterwards.  Each in turn will fill a box, trying to connect four in a row and prevent their classmate from doing the same.  Traditionally the game is played by two people but, in the case of an odd number of students, I see no reason why three people couldn't play together.

I created a set of four boards that will all fit onto one sheet of paper, to save paper and long copy lines.  They should only play on one board at a time.  (This seems obvious, I guess.  But I have had a lot of unique students trying unorthodox things in the past.  LOL!)

This is a simple idea that I whipped up in about ten minutes.  These particular boards are for a final review of the preterite, but you could easily make them with any verbs and any tense.  Easy, good, fun!  I only wonder why I didn't think of it earlier.

Hasta pronto,


Thursday, September 24, 2015


I have been away for a month now and I have felt the strong pull to blog here but two things have prevented me from doing so.  The first is that it's been a tough quarter for me; lots of preps, lots of students, lots of special situations, and very little time.  (Isn't that always the story though?)  The second reason is that this is a special post and I wanted to do something special to celebrate it.

This is post number 200!

Back when I did my 100th post, I created a list of 100 craft links for teachers to use in their Spanish classes.  That was an enormous chore and I was not keen to take on something like that again.  So days turned into weeks, turned into a month and still nothing.  Blah!

So today I have compelled myself to blog now, even though I don't have 200 of anything to share with you.  I'm still going to share something special, because I feel the need to celebrate my 200th post.

So I have decided to share some of my works in progress with you.  All of the following are destined to be paid products some day soon over on Teachers Pay Teachers, once I've put in final details and a teachers' guide.  Some of them need notes sheets to accompany them or other little things that just haven't come together yet.  But all of them are very usable right now and, even though I haven't given them over to my testers yet, they are professional and polished.

And one other thing, these are here for my regular blog readers only.  I'm only going to make these available here on the blog for 30 days.  Once that time has expired, I will take them down and eventually migrate them over to my online shop.  But, I want you to have access to them, in thanks for coming by all the time and for filling me with merriment with your comments and encouragement.

Note: The 30 Free Trial Period that I offered here to my regular blog readers has expired and they are no longer available for free.  If you are interested in these files, you can check my Teachers Pay Teachers store for them.  Please consider joining my blog and reading regularly if you are interested in free products, ideas, downloadables, and collaborations - not to mention a lot of great fun conversations and a place to share with other Spanish teachers!

When I start with AR verbs in Spanish 1, I teach students the Yo and forms first.  We then can engage in simple conversations.  The above Power Point reviews the pronouns in English and in Spanish, animates the conjugations, and gives some conversation guidelines.  Questions in the form and answers in the yo form are the most basic and elemental conversations, so this is a great way to start students with verb conjugations.

I don't know how many times I will teach, re-teach, remind, and offer practice opportunities for Saber and Conocer.  Nothing seems to be sufficient and too much is just too much . . . .  It occurred to me to put it into a cultural context.  The above Power Point goes over the conjugations and some very simple uses of these two verbs and features pictures from Peru.

The weather . . . this time with pretty pictures.  I tried to find culturally-appropriate pictures, but I haven't been able to find them for every slide.  Still, this is a good review of weather terms and most of the pictures come from the Spanish-speaking world.

Personally, I think Joan Miró is the luckiest guy to ever walk the Earth.  I don't think he had much artistic talent at all, but he managed to make it work for him and it made him wildly successful.  I created this Power Point to introduce this famous Spanish painter and his work to my Spanish 3 students.  It is very colorful and my students loved it.

Just a few Valentine's Day vocabulary words accompanied by clip art to illustrate the meaning of the words.

And this last Power Point is my masterpiece of educational awesomeness - no kidding.  It illustrates a lot of the complexities of Salvador Dali's work - including hidden images revealed, explanations of his imagery, an introduction to surrealism, and a little bit about his life.  Dalí is my favorite artist and I put a lot of love into this one.

Now remember, these are only here for 30 days.  So if you want them, you have to download them now.  They are under my copyright, so please do not redistribute them.  Keep them to yourself and your students.

Thanks again for being such awesome readers!

200!  Viva!