Posted in Favorites, Proficiency

My NOT to do when switching to proficiency

Not to do list

Mistakes, I’ve made a few- according to Queen.  As I have been switching from a more traditional approach to teaching foreign language to teaching towards proficiency, I have definitely grown.  However, here are some “mistakes” that I have made that hopefully you can avoid… or at least learn from my mistakes!

  1. Not switching my grade book categories: Traditional grading allowed me to have tests and quizzes categories.  Now, I would rather have: speaking, reading, writing and listening sections.  This way, I don’t have to jam two parts of an IPA on one day to call it a “test” to distinguish between tests and quizzes.  I just want to be able to call it a “listening assessment” and put it with the other listening assessments.  I believe that this will also hold me accountable to have enough in each category and balance it all.
  2. In an interpersonal assessment, not inserting myself enough: I love have the students talk to each other in an interpersonal assessment.  It pushes my level 2 students to maintain a conversation; however, they do not push the vocabulary level like I do.  They will stick to the same types of questions that their peers can understand.  I need to ask questions to push their understanding and gage what they can understand.
  3. Not really knowing where your students are: I have heard this from numerous people when they switch to proficiency.  You assume that your students have a greater proficiency level than they do.  Once you figure that out, you will be able to develop appropriate assessments and rubrics for your students.
  4. Not reassessing your rubrics: As a department, we designed the rubrics for our IPAs last year.  They served their purpose, and they were a great start.  However, after working with them for a year and further reassessing where our students are, we need to rework them.  However, I would encourage you to give your rubrics a few tries before you change it.  That will help you design a better rubric.  There is no way for you to design a rubric perfectly the first time.
  5. Not shortening my authentic resources to help students: I have recently posted on this, but I have decided especially for novices to delete sections of the text that is not helpful for students.  This will make authentic resources easier for students especially in the beginning levels.  As I switch to teaching level 1 next year, I want to be even more cognizant of the overwhelming nature of authentic resources.
  6. Not NOT having a textbook: I have finally decided that two years after moving in this direction, I am ready to drop the textbook.  I will say that it is easier to shape IPAs around existing textbook units instead of the other way around.  Two years in, I feel that I am using the textbook in small doses that it makes sense to drop it.  I would have been in over my head if I had dropped it sooner.  Also, if you never drop the textbook, that isn’t a problem either.  I think it can become a hot button topic, and you have to do what works for you.  You can find success by adapting a textbook to meet this need.
Posted in Favorites, Uncategorized

Spring 2017: Favorite things!

Spring 2017 Favorites

One blog post that I love to read is a review of the blogger’s favorite things.  I have a few that I have been using recently that I hope you can try too!

  • Google Keep:  This is a great to do list tool.  I normally love checking things off my to do list.  I use it on my laptop and iPad.  If I had space on my phone, I would add it there, too (#mompictureproblems!)
  • Flipgrid:  I have started to incorporate this into my classes, and I love it!  I can record a video and all of my students can respond.  They have 90 seconds to respond.  My students like it, and they do not need an account.  Another great point: it is free to have one board.  On the board, you can create subtopics.
  • Idea: As I wrote on Twitter, I had my students share how they used the target language when they traveled.  Many students were excited to share how they used it.  Two students mentioned that they had to give directions to their Uber driver.  I thought this would be a perfect twist to the usual “directions” unit.
  • Assessment: I finally put together an assessment that I planned two summers ago.  Students read a Yelp review then they also read the menu from the Yelp review.  Finally, they left a Yelp review of their own.  My favorite review was below:FullSizeRender (1)
  • Textbooks: Or lack thereof! I have finally decided to make the plunge and go textbookless next year!  One of my big reasons was I ended up having to find ways to use the textbook instead of not using it.  When the balance tipped for me, I was ready to ditch it.  This is clearly not a decision for everyone, but I am excited to try it.  We will see how that journey goes next year!  Also- my favorite is clearly my PLN who always responded to my requests about what novels to incorporate.

What are your current spring favorites?  I love to add to my list!

Posted in Favorites

Friday Activities before Spring Break: Updated!

Friday Activities before Spring Break

I noticed that many people had been looking for ideas for the Friday before Spring Break, and my post was from 2013!  Plus, who is going to use Fakebook anymore?  The students certainly don’t use it!  Here is an updated list of what you can do before any break:

  • BaileViernes has been sweeping Spanish classes everywhere!  Allison has collected 84 videos that have Spanish music and dancing here.  I tried this one Friday, and it was a lot of fun!
  • At ACTFL, I learned about digital storytelling with Noah Geisel (who also gave credit to his students!)  You can have students reenact scenes from a recent story on Snapchat.  Students download them and then submit them to you.  Or if you have been reading, you can do some book snaps!  This is one of my favorite activities to do with students recently because I always laugh at what they create.
  • Sra Sexton has had her students creating memes, and they are awesome!
  • I have shown telenovelas from Netflix before.  I love them for level 2 because the scenes are short.  They provide a nice stopping point, so I can easily discuss what just happened.  Plus the drama normally makes it easy to follow along.  Also, sometimes my students will watch the WHOLE telenovela without any prompting!  Last year, I think at least 3 of my students watched the whole series and came up to me this year to let me know that it was off Netflix!  You can’t ask for more than that!
  • Also grab a trophy and have students celebrate their accomplishments and set goals for the rest of the year.
  • I saw this tweet from the Central States: use these minute to win it games!  Explain it in the TL and then discuss who could and couldn’t do the task in the TL.
  • I really like the Creative Crossword game found here.
  • Students also love to play games like Kahoot, Quizizz or even do PearDecks (or its similar component- NearPod).

What do you like to do right before break?  Share below!

Posted in Favorites

A little Fiesta Friday to celebrate my wonderful students!

Fiesta Friday to Celebrate My Wonderful Students

As I mentioned on Friday, I decided to plan a little fiesta for my Spanish classes at the end of the second trimester!  I didn’t want to just turn on a video though, so here is how I developed the idea.  First, we did a #baileviernes to El Perdón thanks to Sara-Elizabeth’s post.  (I used to be a dancer, and I loved doing these dances at home with my toddler, too!)  This was more successful in some classes rather than others, but many students recognized the song, so that was good!  This song is also in our Música Marzo bracket.Practicing for Baile Viernes

Earlier in the year, a teacher gave me his old trophy because I was a quick Tweeter. 🙂  I had it sitting on my desk.  This was the perfect opportunity to use it!  I feel like as I continue to improve in my teaching, I keep wanting to get better and improve.  I want to use even more CI, slow down my pacing, utilize each Authentic Resource more instead of finding another one, change up my grading system more etc.  You get the idea.  However, I do not spend time to slow down and reflect how far I have come.  I don’t reflect how much my students have learned and improved this year.  I want them to see how far they have come this year and not just to think about what they cannot do.  To me, Spanish 2 can be the trickiest time to do this because it is a difficult level- the excitement of level 1 has worn off, and they have so much that they want to communicate yet don’t always have the vocabulary to do so.  So to solve all of our problems- each student took a selfie with the trophy (which was called The Right Stuff- that made it even better!)  Then they had to write what they had improved upon this year in the past two trimesters.  I didn’t want them to think about what else they had to do, but what had they accomplished.  Here is a collage of some of their responses.  It made me so proud to think of how far they have come this year!Trophy Selfies

After that, we did a little taste testing!  I bought two different types of Hispanic cookies from our local Hispanic market.  As the students were eating, they filled out this form.  This allowed me to incorporate a few taste testing words in there!  Finally, we continued to watch Miss XV from the beginning of the year.  We hadn’t watch it in awhile, and students enjoyed the break.  I enjoyed planning a little fiesta for them, and I like that they were learning more Spanish and reflecting as well.  How do you celebrate your students?


Posted in Favorites

Best of 2016 posts

Best posts of 2016

It has been another wonderful year!  Each year that I teach, I feel blessed to work with the students that are in my classes.  Although there are some days that leave me banging my head into my desk, they also bring me so much joy.  Since I have transitioned to the Upper School and fully starting to embrace proficiency, I really like where my teaching is heading.  I am feeling more creative than I have in years past.  I am looking forward to continuing down this path in 2017!  Also, a big thank you to YOU for reading, sharing and commenting on my blog!  You motivate me to continue to share what I am doing.  Here are my top 5 posts from this past year:

  1. Quizlet Live is still one of my favorite games to play with students!
  2. My updated summer proficiency pack
  3. A collection of the authentic resources that I have used recently
  4. More ideas for brain breaks in the target language
  5. My plans for my first two days of school

Also, you can check out what was popular in 2015, 2014 and 2013!

Posted in Favorites, Listening

How to change slowly


This year, I made a big change for me, but what may seem like a small change for others.  I ditched the cloze song activity on my exam this year which was my listening section.  I really loved (and still kinda love) the song portion.  It was a bit of fun during the exam as many students would ask me to play it again even if they had all of the answers.  Also, I had students practice the song activities throughout the year, so I felt like it was a cumulative activity.  The majority of my students scored well on this section.  I also had students who would reference this song section in later years.  (One group of girls got really excited when they saw one of the songs on my desk just last week!)  Plus, I thought it was so authentic and better than a traditional listening activity from the book.

But this year, I realized that it wasn’t as authentic or relevant as I want.  It doesn’t always mirror what my students need to know or do as Spanish listeners.  This year, I made the decision to replace it with an EdPuzzle.  An EdPuzzle actually assesses their interpretive listening skills, and I can find a YouTube video of a native speaker.  It also mirrors something they may encounter in the outside world.  (Although they will also hear a Spanish song, they do not need to understand every word.  I still hear  the phrase Starbucks lovers when I listen to Taylor Swift’s Blank Space…)

Although this post may not be as helpful or relevant for others, I hope it will inspire you to make a small change.  Many times, it doesn’t seem like our small changes will amount to a lot, and when you want to make a change, small changes don’t always feel important.  It can be difficult to drop an activity that you love and the kids love.  Also, it can be overwhelming to read blogs or posts on Facebook and think that you will never be there like that teacher.  Just make a small change and start there.

Posted in Favorites

Summer Reading: The Language Teacher Toolkit

Summer Reading: The Language Teacher Toolkit

Last week, I just finished The Language Teacher Toolkit by Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti.  I started it earlier in the year but just now had the time to finish it all.  It was a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it for any language educator or soon-to-be educator.  After reading it, I felt validated as a teacher as well as inspired to use many of their ideas.

This book covers almost all aspects of language teaching, and it covers many different styles.  I found that it was well-balanced, and the authors recommend this balanced approach to language teaching.  They mention many popular teaching theories and discuss the merits of these theories.  It also gives examples of many practical ideas to implement into your practice.  All of the suggestions that they provide are backed up by research.  Both Conti and Smith provide this research without getting too bogged down in the details to make it pedantic. As you can see before, I already started using more tongue twisters in class (and my students really enjoyed them!).  I also found a new to me game and ideas for how to use more songs in my class.  I added many sticky notes to the reading section as well as the listening section to shake up my activities with these topics.

This book is beneficial for any new teacher or veteran because there is something that I could use in my class the next day easily.  I did not have to finish the book before I could start using some of the strategies.  I know that I will also keep this book on my bookshelf when I am planning and use it to reference when I feel overwhelmed or my teaching feels monotonous.  It felt like going to a comprehensive conference where I came away with many new ideas- for $35!   Still not sure?  Check out this excerpt from the book!

Posted in beginning of the year, Favorites, School Supplies

Favorite back to school buys!

Fave back to school buys

A confession: I love to shop!  I love to shop for clothes for myself, clothes and toys for my son, and school supplies!  I try to be cautious and not go overboard, but even browsing is fun for me.  I wanted to share a few ideas from my recent outings that you can pick up to use in your classroom this year.

I get many school supplies from the Dollar Tree!  They had great purple and pink paper clips a few years ago.  I also bought a pack of pink and green push pins that I still use.  Also, they have cut out letters for bulletin boards.  I used them to make a Boggle board on my bulletin board.  They also had magazine holder boxes!  My folders from last year were way too flimsy, so I want to get these boxes for my FVR books.  Also, I always pick up about 5-6 ear buds for listening activities in class when students forget theirs.

This year, I stopped by Michael’s, and they had so many great items!  Michaels can be more expensive, but I always Google Michaels coupons.  This week I got 40% off one item and 20% off my whole purchase.  Since I teach in two divisions this year, I was really diligent with my planners- and I love them!  I have two- one for my plans week to week and an overall planner.  I loved the Michael’s stickers that they had for planners.  It will make my planning that. much. better.  They had many of their large letters on sale.  I passed, but I want to go back and get “LEER” for my bookcase.  Finally, I picked up some jewels for the interpersonal bootcamp!  They had really cute office desk decor and organization decor.

On my list still are a pack of multi colored bracelets for easy grouping and a cheaper, but good pack of colorful pens.  They always seem so expensive!  What are your favorites?  Now it is your turn!  What have you found going back to school shopping that you love?  I also follow Target Teachers which is fabulous!

Posted in Favorites

Summer Reading 2016


As my year is ending, I have pressing issues to think about:

  • Are all of the questions on my exam correct?
  • Is this my last original copy to save, or do I have three other copies in another stack of paper?
  • Are all of my grades finished?
  • AND- what will I read this summer?

Obviously, I will want to read the #langbook!  Check out Twitter to find out more details there.  Also, I still have Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner to read from last summer.  I am still reading The Language Teacher Toolkit, and I cannot recommend it enough!  Also, for fun, I have been reading a ton of Susanna Kearsley books.    Other than that, I am undecided.  What are you reading this summer?  I would love some more suggestions.

Posted in Favorites

What students can do over the summer 3.0!

Summer Proficiency Pack 3.0

My proficiency packs have undergone a lot of changes!  My first two were pretty extensive, but I only had a few students complete them.  Then this year, I realized that I wanted to make my students aware of what exists in the world that they use that is in Spanish!  One student commented when we were watching the telenovela on Netflix today that they were surprised that Netflix had Spanish shows!  For my third edition of my summer proficiency pack, I wanted to provide students with a list of music, TV shows, YouTube channels or books that they could read over the summer.  They can choose what they would like to do.  I hope that they can also decide to just integrate a few changes into what they are already doing.  If you want a more school type summer assignment, you can check out my previous activities.  Here is my newest list for my students!

summer proficiency pack 3.0