Thursday, October 29, 2015

¡Que Se Levanten y Se Muevan!

I recently returned from the 2015 FLANC conference, which was a lot of fun and very restorative.  One of the things I got to thinking about while I was there are ways to get my students more physically involved in their learning.  Kinethetic learning is a good thing.  It keeps students alert, assures that everyone is participating, and it changes up the routine from time to time.

I got a couple of really good ideas, one of which I'm going to share with you today.  This is an activity that works well when students are first exposed to new vocabulary and are not yet comfortable enough to communicate with it yet.

The basic idea is to offer a choice to the students: ¿Qué te gusta más, el chocolate o el vainilla?  Then students will gather on one side of the classroom or the other to show their support for the one they choose.  In my case, I used a Power Point with pictures and the words written in Spanish.  Arrows pointed them in the direction to go.  Once kids get with their groups, discussion is certain to ensue and you will have to be fast to provide them with Spanish so that they can stay in the language to every extent possible.

¿Qué Te Gusta Más? Power Point by AnneK at Confesiones y Realidades

My vocabulary was loosely based on 3A in Realidades 1, which is breakfast and lunch foods.  I had to add in some extra words, so this doesn't match up perfectly and if you want to use it in your classroom you will have to make some adjustments.  You can download the file here or you can click on the image above.

Of course, teens do not like to be cubbyholed so I had to provide vocabulary such as Me gustan los dos.  And Depende de la situación.

My personal favorite part of this activity, besides all the great conversation it generated, was the final part in which I gave my students a blank slide and had them pick their own two vocabulary terms to contrast.  They picked the words, found pictures, and I am picking a selection of them to share with the class on Friday.  They seem to be excited and some are already urging me to pick their slide to share.  It should be fun!

Hasta pronto amigos,


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ésto Te Va A Hacer Sonreír - El Tiempo Progresivo

I'm always looking for fun content to add to my grammar instruction.  Even though I love grammar and find it fascinating, I do realize that my students do not always share my enthusiasm.

So, since I'm always on the prowl (so to speak) for that great content, I squealed with delight when I found these looping pictures.  My first thought: These are amazing!  My second thought: The Present Progressive Tense!  My third thought: Yes! It's great to be a Spanish teacher!

¡Miren, miren, miren!

Spanish 1 & 2

¿Qué está haciendo
el hombre?

¿Qué está haciendo
la sombra de él?

Spanish 3+

¿Qué está pasando
en la foto?

¿Qué mensaje nos
está comunicando
el artista?
Spanish 1 & 2

¿Qué está haciendo
el hombre con los

¿Y con las piernas?

Spanish 3+

¿Qué está pasando
en la foto?

¿Qué está haciendo
que nos hace pensar
en pájaros?

The questions are just what occurred to me on the spur of the moment and are the sorts of things that I would ask students in the large group before splitting them up into pairs to discuss similar questions with other pictures.

Other pictures? you ask.  Oh yes!  The artist's name is Romain Laurent and he has a lot of these great looping photos.  I found these particular pictures in an article on Neatorama.  But I found a lot more of his great moving pictures on his Tumblr page.  And you can find Mr. Laurent's online portfolio here.  The front page of his portfolio is comprised of static pictures - not looping ones, but they are outstanding.  Films and GIFs can be found by clicking links in the upper right.

Happy descriptions and conjugations with this one, amigos!

Hasta pronto,


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Platillos Voladores

Amigos, I'm very excited to show you my latest creation: Platillos Voladores - A Spanish Vocaculary Game.  This is an original creation from beginning to end and I'm so happy with how it came out.  I designed and produced this game from scratch, which is to say that it is not another game dressed up in Spanish.

I originally made this game as a big vocabulary review when we had a midterm exam come up.  I typed up the vocabulary, printed it on card stock and cut out the cards by hand.  My students played it and it was a big hit.  When I got the bright idea of adding in wild cards with game effects, the game really took off and now my students literally beg me to play it.

I showed off the final commercial version of the game to my students this week and they were thrilled.  They were so proud to be a part of the playtesting process and they treated me like I was some sort of VIP.  (I must admit that I enjoyed that.)

So, it's here now and I have the pleasure of telling you all about it.  Basically this is a game in which players want to get rid of all the cards in their hand by playing them into the proper categories (ex. Lápiz goes into Materiales, Gris goes into Colores, and Cien goes into Números).  The categories are on plates (platillos) that rotate around the circle, bringing a different category to a player each round.  There are wild cards that have fun effects like making all your opponents draw a card, trading your hands with another player, and changing the rotation of the plates.  Players keep an eye on each other because if a card is played into the wrong category and an opponent points it out, they get to give one card from their hand to the erring player.  Sometimes I instate the rule that students must give a definition or an example when they play a card - to get them speaking.  Other times, I just let them play fast-paced and fun. 

I chose seven Spanish 1 vocabulary topics and I will add more to an expansion pack soon.  I think I will also create some blank cards so that teachers can create their own vocabulary categories that match the base set.  You can see the categories in the photo below.

I'm very pleased with this!  If you are interested in possibly purchasing one for your classroom, you can look closer and purchase at Game Crafter.  In fact, you could create your own game there too.  It's a lot of work, but it is fun work that makes you feel accomplished and impresses the heck out of your students.

Hasta pronto, amigos.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vivo Para Enseñar Español . . . ¿No?

We teachers have been conditioned not to complain.  And really, it's in our nature to quietly sacrifice for the good of others.  It is one of the things that makes teachers such amazing people.  We never got into this job because we were going to earn a big money, have great prestige, or command great power.  That is just not who we are.

But, years ago I was watching the Oprah show and something was said that has stayed with me forever.  I'm paraphrasing here, but basically You cannot continue to help others unless you take time to fill your own tank.

The powerful part of this statement is in its simplicity and it's obvious truth.  It's not about caring enough.  Nor is it about organization, time-management, or even love.  One simply cannot go on working forever without attending to personal needs from time to time.

I was recently reading a Philosophy of Teaching statement by a fellow teacher in which this quote was highlighted, "Teaching Spanish is my life."   . . . wow, really?  No interests outside school, no faith community, no hobbies, no loved ones?  Teaching Spanish is your life?

I'm passionate about quality education, creating the best experience for my students, showing them love and compassion, and making materials that will be engaging for them.  But it is not my life, and I don't think I would be healthy if I didn't have an outside life.

But, more and more, I find that my outside life is eroding away.   I haven't had time to knit, make jewelry, or paint in a long time.  A friend of mine from my World of Warcraft days (yes, it's true), was chatting with me on Facebook and trying to lure me back in.  And I stopped to wonder how I ever had time for that.  All I seem to do with myself now is schoolwork - in and out of school.

Do you have a teachers' lounge at your school?  A real teachers' lounge - not a workroom, a place for teachers to come together and relax.  Do you sit down and eat lunch with your colleagues or do you gulp down a couple of fast bites at your desk while you wait for a student to show up to take a quiz?  How many nights per quarter are you spending at school doing Open House, conferences, meetings, dance chaperoning, sports duty, watching the recitals and plays?

And my school is cutting into our planning time in a serious way.  It seems they cannot find enough substitutes, so they tap us to cover classes.  And I'm losing planning time on Thursday to give the ACT-PLAN.  I will also lose planning time to read tests out loud for students in other classes.  And again when we have mandatory meetings during out planning.

So when do we do our planning?  Well, that's easy - we do it at home.  I take time away from my six-year-old son, my elderly mother, my beloved husband and my pets.  I take time away from knitting, television, sculpting.  I take so much time away from myself that I hardly know who I am apart from my job.  (No hyperbole - I really do lose touch with the real me, far too often.)  So, even though I think it's not sane, it looks like teaching Spanish actually IS my life.

I am beginning to feel like I have gotten into an unstable partnership.  I still love my partner, but this is no longer a healthy relationship.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Sopa de Palabras - El Otoño

¡Hola amigos!  Fall break has come to an end and the students filed back into class today with all the enthusiasm of oral surgery.  It was grim during first period, let me tell you!

It occurred to me that the students might need to ease themselves back into the school routine gradually.  So I decided to give them a bit of a break today with a puzzle.  And I encouraged them to sit and chat with their friends as they worked.

This seemed to do the trick.  Grumpy faces softened into smiles, they sought out their friends, and they sat down together to conquer the puzzle and to get caught up with one another after three weeks of break.

I share the Spanish 1 puzzle with you today.  Click on the picture or click here to download it.

It's nothing special at all - but if you are looking for a gap-filler activity or a small distraction, this might fit the bill.

I also had my students do a little conjugation activity in which they had a maple leaf template that was colored and cut out.  Each point on the leaf had a subject pronoun and students wrote their verb in the middle.  They bent down each leaf to write the conjugation on the other side.

It looked a little like this:

 I thought I might make a cute bulletin board display with all the fall leaves on it, but I got some interesting leaves in colors not commonly seen in nature.  Ja ja ja . . .

The above is not a link.  It's just an example since I got the idea from another teacher; I don't want you to think that I made this one up myself.  She calls herself The Traveling Classroom and her leaf has a happy face on it and is much cuter than my above example.  You can get a copy of the template and do the activity in your own classroom by clicking this link.  She has another leaf template and a lot of really cool hands-on activities for Spanish class also.

And that's going to do it for me today.  I'm exhausted, of course.  Mondays are never easy.  Mondays after a three-week break are brutal.

Hasta pronto,


Friday, October 9, 2015

Otoño por Octavio Paz

Este poema por Octavio Paz merece contemplación.

En llamas, en otoños incendiados,
arde a veces mi corazón,
puro y solo. El viento lo despierta,
toca su centro y lo suspende
en luz que sonríe para nadie:
¡cuánta belleza suelta!

Busco unas manos,
una presencia, un cuerpo,
lo que rompe los muros
y hace nacer las formas embriagadas,
un roce, un son, un giro, un ala apenas;
busco dentro mí,
huesos, violines intocados,
vértebras delicadas y sombrías,
labios que sueñan labios,
manos que sueñan pájaros...

Y algo que no se sabe y dice «nunca»
cae del cielo,
de ti, mi Dios y mi adversario.

Unas imágenes y pensamientos bonitos sobre la temporada:

¿Debo mencionar que vivo en el sur de los Estados Unidos y que ahora empezamos el otoño?  Sé que, para la mayoría de la gente que lee aquí, el otoño ya empezó hace semanas.  Pero hoy vi las primeras hojas amarillas y me he puesto contenta.

Hasta pronto,


Monday, October 5, 2015

Memoria - Juego Profesional Para Principiantes

Amigos míos, I have a big announcement.  I have decided to enter the world of educational game design!  I started small and created a simple memory matching game with basic Spanish vocabulary as my first endeavor.  I wanted to see what quality the cards were going to be, what the printing would look like and overall how pleased I was going to be with the product.  And, in a word, I'm delighted. 
Buy Memoria Palabras Básicas

As you can see above, the colors are brilliant and the printing is sharp as a tack.  The cards are printed on game-quality card stock and the corners are rounded nicely.

This game has 48 cards in it - 24 pairs of words that students learn early in their studies (papel, árbol, zapato, bicicleta, etc.).  They are perfect for elementary students or for Spanish 1 students at the beginning of their language-learning journey.  And, because you would never use all 48 cards in a single game (That would be crazy; trust me.), you have enough cards to run two or three games at the same time.  If you are dealing with little kids, you could even run four groups of students playing simultaneously.  Fun for all!

Buy Memoria Palabras Básicas

I like to put card games at one center/station when my students are going through a circuit.  But they are also great for fast-finishers, for an incentive, or for those days where half of your class is away and you want to do something relevant but not something that will get them ahead of the rest of the group.  (This happens to me when we have an assembly, when there is standardized testing going on somewhere in the building, or when there is severe weather.)  That's my son above to the right.  He has been playing the heck out of this game any time someone agrees to play with him.  But, it's a good game for soloists too.

Buy Memoria Palabras Básicas

I used colorful and iconic art with Spanish on both cards.  The idea, after all, is to learn the vocabulary in Spanish.  The card with the picture and the word helps students to make the association, while the card with the vocabulary alone encourages them to recall the meaning of the word.  In other words, they have to learn the words to succeed.  They can't rely on English (because there is none) and they can't simply match pictures. 

I wish I could tell you this was only a couple dollars . . . but I can't because I'm not a big game company yet.  I have to pay for small print runs, which are expensive to do.  But it comes in at $17.99 and that pays for materials, printing, packaging, labor, and a small profit for both the Game Crafter and for myself.  Keep in mind that you can play 2-3 groups of kids simultaneously.  (4 if you have preschoolers or kindergartners)  So, you can get a lot of use out of it, while bringing color and fun to your classroom.

And guess what?  You can play Pesca (Go Fish) with these cards too.  I made a rules sheet for you to download if you wish.

I know that we teachers buy a lot of our own classroom materials and we can't afford all the games and supplies that we might like.  I would love it if you would buy my game.  But, if you can't afford this right now and you can't talk your principal into funding it, I understand.  Please put it on your wishlist and remember me next year at budget time.  I would be very, very happy if you would spread the word about this game on social media.  Tweet, pin, reblog, share, whatever . . . I thank you!

And, I have four more games in various stages of completeness right now.  They are waiting for the right moment for me to share them with you, so please don't stay gone for too long.