Posted in Novel

Resources for Robo en la Noche: Chapters 4-13 and assessments

robo chapters 4-13.jpg

The other day, I went to look for what I had posted for Robo en la Noche, and I realized that I had only posted my additional resources through chapter 3!  I wanted to detail the rest of my plans that we did throughout the novel.

  • Before reading chapter 4, students completed this Kahoot.
  • In chapter 4, students made predictions before reading.  Then, I had students create a chart to complete while we were reading.  They wrote the categories: who/what/when/why in four different sections.  As I was reading, I would pause periodically, ask clarifying questions and students would fill out any details in any section that they could.  I like to change up our during reading activities to keep them engaging.
  • For chapter 5, we used Sharon’s review bird.  Students also drew the chapter as I read it aloud.
  • In chapters 6 and 7, students read the chapter and then we reviewed it as a class and each group acted out a small part of the chapter.  If students are going to act out a section, I like to keep it limited and have them prepare ahead of time.  After this, students practiced these can-do statements.
  • For chapters 8 and 9, students drew pictures of what was happening in the chapter as I read aloud.  I also had students complete this webquest to learn more about MINAE.
  • At this point, students completed a speaking assessment using Flipgrid.  I gave students a list of questions and allowed them to choose four to answer.  Many of the questions were slight variations of the can-do statements that they had practiced.
  • For chapter 10, students completed this reading guide.  Then after reading chapter 11 as well, I had my students play this Quizizz game.  Students also made a meme about the book and uploaded it to their Seesaw account.
  • We rushed to finish the book before Thanksgiving break, so we read the last few chapters a little faster than I wanted to due to an early snow day.  However, as a wrap up assessment, students read an article from El Mundo en Tus Manos newsletter about poachers stealing eggs and students wrote a presentational writing that compared the article with the book.
  • After the book, students also completed this Google Tour of Costa Rica.

I hope these plans and assessments help you if you use Robo en la Noche or other novels as well!  My students enjoyed the book overall, but more importantly felt it helped them improve their Spanish.

Posted in Novel

Robo en la noche: Pre reading activities and chapters 1-3

Robo en la noche: Pre reading, chapters 1-3

In level 3, we are teaching the book Robo en la noche by Kristy Placido.  For most of my students, this is the first time that they are reading a novel in Spanish, and they seem to understand it well.  I wanted to give some of the activities that we have done before reading and during reading:

  • To start, we did an introduction to Costa Rica.  I printed off some of my old news about Costa Rica.  I also printed off some of the articles from El Mundo en Tus Manos from the previous year.  I had students take notes on them and compare the US with Costa Rica by writing a short paragraph in Spanish.
  • They also completed this EdPuzzle about Costa Rica to see more of the sights.
  • We also went over the geography of Costa Rica from Elizabeth Dentlinger.  This helped reinforce some of the words from the book as well.  I like any activity where I can give input, and the students are active and able to demonstrate comprehension.
  • We also watched this video from Zachary Jones on Biodiversity.  Even though it isn’t about Costa Rica, it gives a good background about different animals and plants.
  • Before reading the first chapter, we did a pop-up with sentences from the first chapter that I thought they would know.  They really got into this game, and it helped to make the first chapter more comprehensible.

We always start with reading the first chapter aloud.

  • This time, I had students draw the pictures as we were going.  After that, students took a picture of their drawings and wrote a caption describing what was going on in the first chapter.  They included this in their Seesaw journal.  You can also have them explain the pictures by speaking if you want to.
  • Finally, they played Crayon War or Guerra.  Typically, I have played this with vocabulary words, but it was easy to make the switch to doing this as a fun post reading activity.  I am including a picture below:

Crayon War

With this activity, I could give clues such as who is Bender (for horse/caballo) and Makenna’s sister who is still in Michigan (for Alex) in the target language.  Students can hear many of the key facts again.  They race to circle the correct word or phrase.  This activity can be as long or as short as you like, too!

  • For the second chapter, we started with a Write and Discuss from the first chapter.  Since we are reading this book in the past tense, we are using this to highlight some of the past translations to demonstrate what they mean.  This is a nice way to get in pop-up grammar by translating the verb.
  • Students also completed a PearDeck as we read.  I can have them draw scenes, translate sentences or answer questions while we go.
  • Finally, we reviewed all of the characters, and students took notes on them.
  • At the beginning of the next class, students made Play-doh sculptures from the first two chapters.  (Although I had to ban planes because everyone was making planes!)  Then students made predictions about what each play-doh represented.  We reviewed each play-doh sculpture as a class to get even more repetitions of key words and phrases.
  • For chapter 3, I gave students a reading guide to complete.  I like to use reading guides to allow students to read on their own.
  • Finally, after the third chapter, students completed a five minute free write of what happened in the book.  I am trying to use free writes more to help students with their written proficiency.  They can count up the number of words, and put the picture in Seesaw.  This way, they can keep track of all of their free writes and their progress.

Also today in class we added a mascot!  (Check out the first picture!)

Posted in beginning of the year, Novel

How I decide on novels for my classes

How I decide on novels for my class

Whew!  My school year is over, my room is packed and now- I just have to pack up my house, have an edcamp, move, vacation and make it through June!  At least those are all- relatively- fun things!  In my head, I wasn’t going to blog much in June, but then I started to feel the itch.

Two weeks ago, I got to visit my new school and talk to the current foreign language department about curriculum and novels.  And of course, my head started spinning with ideas.  I also wanted to be purposeful about the novels that we chose to implement next year.  Next year, I will be teaching: Early Childhood and grades 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8.  The younger classes meet twice a week and the middle school classes meet 4 times a week.  The department decided to introduce novels in fourth grade which to me seems reasonable.

When you are first starting to look at novels, I suggest thinking about the difficulty level.  Martina wrote a wonderful series about how to know if a novel is appropriate for each level that I highly recommend!

First, I looked at what the school already had.  I really liked two of the novels they were already using.  They had Brandon Brown versus Yucatan for sixth grade.  I hadn’t read it before, but when I did, I liked the incorporation of Mexican culture.  I can’t wait to Google Map those locations a la Maestra Loca!  Also, they had Isabela captura un congo.  When I taught elementary classes before, I loved to incorporate animals.  This story does so nicely, and I can use some of my resources from Robo en la noche with Costa Rica.

Second, I decided that I wanted to vary the countries that the books emphasize.  One year, I fell into the trap of emphasizing too much one country when I wasn’t analyzing this.  My colleague emailed and said the exact same thing!  I looked at the current novels and then added on other novels that I knew would cover various countries.  Spanish teachers in particular are so lucky that there are so many books to choose from!  If it hasn’t happened already, soon I predict that there will be a novel from each country.

Finally, I have found that students prefer a balance of non-fiction and fiction.  Since I have tried to cover two novels a year, I try to choose one of each.  While a few years ago, there were mostly fiction books, now there is a wide variety of both fiction and non fiction.  When I polled my students what books they preferred at the end of the year, they were split because I believe I finally struck a nice balance.  (Last year, I taught Vidas Impactantes with level 5 along with Calaca Alegre.  In level 3, we read Robo en la noche and Santana.)

So after debating this, what did I decide on?

  • Grade 4: Edi el elefante (based on recommendations from many!)
  • Grade 5: Isabela captura un congo
  • Grade 6: Brandon Brown versus Yucatan and Felipe Alou (I have always wanted to teach it!  And it is a non-fiction book!)
  • My colleague is planning on teaching Escape cubano, Esperanza and maybe even El Ekeko in 7th grade.
  • Grade 8: Bianca Nieves because we loved it so much two years ago and Leyendas impactantes (I chose Leyendas because I want to start with a study of Venezuela.  Also- it has a novice and intermediate version!)

Many of these books will be new to us- so I would love any suggestions that you have!  Also, how do you decide on books that you use for whole class novels?

Posted in Uncategorized

El Mundo En Tus Manos 2019-2020! Changes and more ways to use articles in your classes

El Mundo En Tus Manos

Great news!  El Mundo en Tus Manos is back again for the 2019-2020 school year!  If you haven’t subscribed or downloaded a free edition, it is a five article newsletter that highlights news in the Spanish-speaking world in comprehensible Spanish.  It allows your students to become aware of what is happening throughout the world while they are acquiring more Spanish.  This year, we have covered such a wide range of topics from Venezuela’s government to a frog looking for love and the Forever 21 clothing line for Selena.  We try to find articles to engage a wide range of students.

It has been a lot of fun working with Martina this year on this resource.  We made some changes like trying out the digest version (that wasn’t sustainable to continue throughout the year) and adding a list of authentic resources to really bring to life the articles.  The authentic resources are a variety of videos, photos, social media or longer articles. However, we had a long discussion about what was more feasible for next year.

We decided to go back to biweekly, but make the biweekly versions even better!  In the newest biweekly edition, we will go back to doing the digest version along with the footnoted version and non footnoted version.  The digest version is a short paragraph that can be easily read by students in level 1. In addition, we will make a projectable version of each article with its image.  We also plan to make specific activities each week to help you supplement these articles and turn them into assignments. Finally, as bigger articles pop-up in “off” weeks, we will publish a one-page article on these topics.  This will also help biweekly subscribers and weekly subscribers because we won’t have to repeat any articles. We are also committed to showing you that even though this resource will be biweekly, you can still use this every week.

One of the questions that we get asked most frequently as people want to buy the newsletter is how to use them in classes.  I have written about how I designed our whole second trimester around these articles. In it, I included my whole unit with can-do statements and activities.  You don’t have to create a whole unit to use these activities either.  After that, my students created news article presentations based on an article of their choice.  Finally, they created videos based on another set of articles to create a news show.

Other than my bigger unit, I use these articles with the novels that we read.  I will pull out all of the articles related to a country before any novel that we read.  I like to create a crossword based on the articles for students to fill out. It is even better when it is nice outside and I can spread the articles out on picnic tables.  I also like to pull out articles that relate to the book and have students compare and contrast the article with the novel in a presentational writing. The article on scientists making robotic turtle eggs to catch poachers in Costa Rica was PERFECT after we read Robo en la Noche.  

Many of the topics come up year after year.  Even with my level 6, I like to use the articles and authentic resources to remind them of what we studied last year.  We had talked about narcotrafficking in level 5, so this year we read the articles about El Chapo and his trial. It doesn’t take them long to read the articles, and it is a wonderful reminder of what we had studied.

Finally, we wanted to highlight how some of our subscribers are using the news in their classes to inspire you even more:

  • Ariadne Costa and Kathy Gonzalez-Guevara will typically use the articles to read and discuss with their classes.  Some of the topics Kathy will have her students discuss include what they understood, liked and didn’t like.  Ariadne noted that she has been able to stretch the articles into a full week when the authentic resources are appropriate.  I love this idea! I was thinking that you could even have students read an article a day to start off the class then delve into the authentic resources for that particular article.
  • Albert Fernandez uses the articles for students to read by themselves and also in groups.  After, he will develop comprehension activities with them. He wrote a whole blog post dedicated to the activities that he has his students complete.
  • Some teachers like Margaret Gillen have students read the articles for homework.  They discuss all of the articles as a whole class then break up into groups based on their favorite article to discuss it further.
  • Nicole Gómez uses them with her students at the college level for levels 1-4.  Students break up into pairs to read their favorite article then summarize it for the class in English.  Sometimes, Nicole will pull up a picture to help clarify. She hopes to move the discussion more to Spanish in the future.  She has also incorporated the articles into her exams. Students have to summarize the main idea and answer multiple choice questions.  For older editions, she uses them during FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) when students need to read a bit more, but they don’t need to start a new book.
  • Sarah Wisenhunt uses the articles along with Pictoline Infographics for Viernes Actuales for her level 3 class.  Students read for 20 minutes then Sarah will conduct a question and answer session to summarize in Spanish.  Then, students will give their opinions in English. She chose to have them speak in English to demonstrate their comprehension.
  • Finally Ky Pinkerton had students read each article for a minute to get the gist of the article then pass the article to another student and read a new article.  Students made a list of the articles that they thought were interesting, and Ky grouped students based on their interests. With their individual article, they have to write a summary in Spanish and English and make a quiz on their article.  Then they present it! She also modified this for her lower levels by having them write 5 sentences in Spanish to serve as a summary to focus on input.

I hope that these awesome subscribers gave you ways to use these articles in your classes!  Also, don’t forget to join the El Mundo en Tus Manos Facebook group to share even more of your resources!

Reference Page

Welcome to my blog!  I have been blogging for almost five years now, and I wanted to create this page for everyone who is new to my blog.  I teach using comprehensible input, and I assess with Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs).  I also use novels to guide my curriculum.  If you are new here, I suggest starting with:

I also have been writing news articles every other week to be used in a high level 1 to level 2-3 classes (and up!)  You can find the category here with all of the PDFs in each post.

This year, I have used novels to help guide my curriculum.  I have used:

In addition, this is how I changed up whole class novels to make them work for me and a list of 21 activities that can be used for ANY novel.

If you are looking for beginning of the year activities, check out:

Finally, here is a list of over 100 authentic resources that I have used in my Spanish classes levels 1-3.

I am slowly adding resources to my Teachers Pay Teachers Page such as IPAs, journal prompts and videos where I explain various topics that I do in my classroom.  You can check it all out here!

This year, I will be presenting at:

Interested in contacting me (marisdemosthenes AT to present?  Here are some of my presentation topics that I have done in the past:

Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: March 3, 2017

Brillante Viernes: March 3

It’s Friday!  This is the last day of the trimester for us.  We finished a test yesterday, so I am planning a little “fiesta” for my classes today.  I will blog about it next week, so you can try one in your classes as well.  One thing that we are doing is celebrating how far we have come.  Many times, I feel like I need to keep pushing myself.  I push myself to evolve my teaching.  I push myself to evaluate what I am doing and how to make it better.  I am sure that my students feel the same way.  But how many times do we stop and actually reflect on how far we have come?  Today is a day for that.  This weekend, here are some great posts to read:

  • Check out these 26 ideas for working with videos in Spanish class!  (I love #13!)
  • I have played a variation of this game and everyone has fun playing it.  I plan on doing Allison’s version next time.
  • I love how Sharon incorporated a trip to the Aquarium and used a ton of TL.
  • Check out La Maestra Loca’s presentations on brain breaks!  She has so many awesome ideas.
  • Finally look at ACTFL’s newest Lead with Languages campaign!

Here are some posts from previous years from my blog:


Posted in Reading

Independent Reading: Novel Project

Washington Memorial
Washington Memorial

Next year, my Spanish II blended students will be reading a novel of their choice at the end of the year.  I am going to give them a choice of three different novels.  They will be reading on their own, and I will have small face to face groups during their class setting.  They will have to keep track of their progress and new words while they are reading.  At the end, they will create a project to demonstrate their knowledge of the book.  I am including my reading log and projects as well.  Many of these ideas I saw elsewhere.  I originally saw the idea by Kristy Placido for Robo en la noche.  I am excited to implement this!


Posted in Novel

Santana: Resources

Santana: resources

This past year, I taught the book Santana to my level 3 students.  It was a hit!  I personally found it fascinating because I didn’t know much about his personal life.  As I wrote before, I like combining fiction (in this case Robo en la noche) with a non-fiction book to reach all of my students.  I realized that I never shared many of the materials that I made for this novel.

  • To introduce the book and learn more about Mexico, I used this EdPuzzle on Mexico DF.
  • I also had students complete a jigsaw activity to review the book when we reached chapter 9.  I broke students up into smaller groups and then they had to come up with key words, questions to ask their peers and important facts from the chapters.  Then one member from each group would rearrange themselves and they would “re-teach” the chapters to the other members.  The other group would answer the questions and the experts from the chapter could correct the answers.
  • For interpretive reading assessments, I like to shorten a few chapters and leave out some details.  Students have to include new details that are from the book, related to what they are reading and not in the reading.  Then, they identify key vocabulary and answer comprehension questions.  I have found that this gives students a reason to re-read the text, and I don’t have to create a whole new story/text with the words from this story.  This is the practice that students completed.
  • Each chapter begins with a quote.  I gave students a variety of options from the quote and had them explain how the quote related to their own life for a presentational writing assessment.
  • I was looking for a good interpretive listening assessment.  Dreaming Spanish has some excellent videos about other singers’ lives.  Their lives parallel Santana’s life.  I had students complete an EdPuzzle answering questions about the singer’s lives and then later explaining the similarities or differences with Santana’s life.  I used the video about Rosalía and Álvaro Soler.
  • I found/created this Quizizz for chapters 10-12.
  • And finally, I can never figure out how to actually share a Goosechase, but I took screenshots of all of the missions!

Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 1.51.25 PMScreen Shot 2019-08-14 at 1.51.09 PMScreen Shot 2019-08-14 at 1.50.59 PMScreen Shot 2019-08-14 at 1.50.45 PM

If you are planning on teaching Santana, I hope you enjoy it as much as my classes did!

Posted in No Prep Required, Novel, Technology

Conceptual maps in units and novels

My Post (99)

This year, we planned a PLC to allow us more time to collaborate with both Middle and Upper School teachers.  We have some really excellent language teachers in the Middle School, but it is hard to find time to discuss what we are doing in our classes.  Marcela Velikovsky shared a wonderful idea on how to have students create conceptual maps for the novels that they are reading.  Both my department chair and I were eager to use it on our classes!

For her level 1 class, she gave them notecards with main events and people on them.  They are reading Agentes Secretos, so she would write down main characters like Paula and Mario, places like Barcelona and Paris then other key words like romántica, mural etc.  She gave them to the students then they would connect notecards on a large piece of paper and finish a phrase in between them.  For example, one student may put the Paul card down then draw a line between Paula and romántica and write es on it: Paula ——- es——— romántica.  Then they could use Paula again, draw another line and write Paula ——– habla con——– Mario.  However, the students could organize the cards together in any order that they choose.  I love the support for a beginning level class!

In her Spanish 2 class, Marcela allowed the students to brainstorm the events, people and places for the book Patricia va a California.  Then, they did the same conceptual map using the notecards to connect them together.  Students could discuss how they wanted to arrange all of the topics.

Today, I decided to do the same thing in my Spanish V class, but because it is me, I wanted to techify it!  We have read two of Kara’s Ecuadorian legends.  I had students brainstorm the characters, main events and the importance of each legend.  Students worked in groups of 2-3.  This allowed them to review and get more repetitions of key words and events.  When they were revisiting each legend, they would also ask me clarifying questions.

After this, they used the program to make connections between the legends.  I told them they couldn’t just make a conceptual map with legend #1 and legend #2.  They had to think of ways that both legends intertwined.  With the, they don’t need to register, and they can just download their conceptual map at the end.  Here are some of them:

Mind Map: LeyendaScreen Shot 2018-11-07 at 4.32.51 PMScreen Shot 2018-11-07 at 4.33.01 PM

I like the fact that the project was open-ended, and that it can be used at many levels.  I was thinking that this would have been useful as we were reading Vidas Impactantes.  You could also do something similar with vocabulary from a unit.  Sara-Elizabeth used this last year with her students for Robo en la noche.  Although you cannot include visuals, it would still be effective.

How do you use conceptual maps in your language class?  Now that I have started, I can’t get enough!

Posted in curriculum

Back to school week: Changes and curriculum

curriculum changes and plans

Welcome back to day 2!  Yesterday, I covered my plans for the first few days of school.  I wanted to cover some changes that I made with our curriculum this upcoming year:

One thing that I will be using next year in all of my levels is El Mundo en tus manos!  Martina and I will be producing it this year.  Many times, I put it out for FVR and other times, I find connections to what we are studying.  Then we will all read an article or articles to incorporate in class.  We have worked on the first free edition for this summer.  I also will be including other extension resources for you to use in your class.  Martina has all of the details here!

I am making some changes within my curriculum as well.  You can see my level 1 post here.  My biggest change for next year will be that we are switching from El Ekeko to La Familia de Federico Rico.  I had to decide on books before my class had finished reading El Ekeko, and I worried that it was going to be a little difficult for them.  In the end, it wasn’t, and I really enjoyed the culture that was embedded nicely throughout the book.  Also, it lead nicely to our end of the year IPA.

However, I am excited to use La familia de Federico Rico!  I really like the illustrations and that I can talk about them a la Señor Wooly’s graphic novels.  I plan on teaching La Familia during December.  I will then move Piratas to later in the year.  I will blog about my plans for this unit as I create it!

For level 3, I want to start with one of Señor Wooly’s graphic novels (Billy y las botas or La Casa de la Dentista!)  I have found that ALL students really find success with these graphic novels, and it will be a good place to jump off for novels later in the year.  I taught Billy y las botas in level 2, but I didn’t teach much of level 2 last year, so none of my students will have read it.

My overall goal for the year is that students will be able to talk about the world around them.  We have decided on Robo en la noche (past tense part).  Our first trimester (after the graphic novel) will be about the environment.  I definitely plan on picking up Carrie’s unit on Mar de plástico.

For the next unit, we will focus on current events.  In addition to El Mundo en tus manos, we will do a deeper dive into some of the current topics.  I want to start on some of the natural disasters that have been happening in Central and South America.  Then, I want to work in a unit on immigration.  I am teaching level 3 with another teacher, so we can discuss other topics that he wants to use in level 3.

Finally, we will be discussing entertainment and reading the book Santana.  During this unit, I want to work in a telenovela similar to El Internado.  This new series by Netflix called Élite looks promising!  For level 3, I am also working with another teacher.  I wanted to help by coming up with a general outline, but I want his input as we continue to develop the course.

For level 5, last year we used this schedule:  (Thank goodness for Kara Jacobs and her amazing units!)

So next year, I am making a few changes.  I am changing out Frida Kahlo for Kristy’s Vidas Impactantes.  It turned out that my curriculum covered A LOT of Mexico- Frida Kahlo, narcoviolencia and La Calaca Alegre which is about Mexicans who live in Chicago.  I wanted to change it, so I was looking at other countries as well.  After that book, we will do the Ecuadorian legends unit again and the newest lottery commercial.  Then, I will allow my students to vote again like previous years.  I give them a few units that I am interested in or others have developed units on!  We will see where my class goes.  I will also have to decide on another telenovela instead of El Internado as it is going off Netflix.  I really enjoyed doing De que te quiero te quiero a few years ago, and I am hoping to find a similar one this year.

For level 6, I am going to use the book Vector and Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  I plan on having my students work on a passion project, but I am still figuring out the details.  I want to start with Vector then read Marina in winter.  I also want to continue to discuss a variety of cultural topics similar to level 5.  I appreciate input from my students to make sure that they are invested in the class.  It is also a blended class, so two days they will be working online and the other two days, they will be with me!

I hope this outline helps you as you are planning your upcoming classes!