Posted in Reading, reflection, Unit and Lesson Plans

Fast Food Unit: Intermediate Spanish

Fast Food Unit: Int Spanish

After the news unit, students created a news project.  My colleague is writing up that project, and I will share it here as well.  We had two weeks before the exam period which is lasting almost two weeks.  Our students don’t take an exam (notice my uptick in blogging recently!), so my colleague and I wanted to create a short unit based on one of the news articles.  Since one of the articles discussed Krispy Kreme in Guatemala, we decided to create a unit around the fast food companies in Latin America.

Day 1:

To introduce this unit, I started with stations.  I LOVE stations, and they have become quicker to set up because I designate four stations each time:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Game

The speaking is always just a speaking activity with me.  It gives me a lot of time with small groups and we just have a conversation around the topic.  We discussed which fast food restaurants they liked and what they ate at each one.  For the game station, they completed a Quizizz to review previous food vocabulary.  For the reading section, I had students read the menus of a Burger King restaurant in Guatemala and a McDonald’s restaurant in Mexico.  Students used this Venn Diagram to compare these restaurants with fast food restaurants in the US.  Finally, for the writing section, I gave them the menu from the Pollo Campero restaurant and had them explain what they would want to eat at that restaurant.  I knew that they would all use the same phrases, so I made sure to provide them with others to use like: me da asco, prefiero, comería, and compraría.

Then at the end of class, we did a bracket of which fast foods we like the most.  I find myself going back again and again to the idea of bracketing for input.  It is quick, simple, engaging and zero prep!


This is where I feel like I need to work a bit more.  Right there, I just threw three resources at my students.  Two would have been great- and they could have reflected on it more.  Next time, I would stick with Burger King and Pollo Campero.  Then students could write about what they wanted to eat from either restaurant.  I also like that it allows more choice, and it integrates both the reading and writing even more.  Depending on when I speak to my students, I could also incorporate more of the menus into that as well.  I also didn’t get a chance to include more speaking- but I would like to have them reflect even more with Flipgrid.

Day 2:

The following day, I wanted to get more input for my students.  I decided to start with a few commercials.  However, I wanted to start with a pre-listening activity.  I used this PearDeck with a few screenshots from each commercial.  I asked students to describe what they saw in Spanish.  This activates prior knowledge and prepares them for listening.  The great feature about PearDeck is when my students see the other words that other students write as they are answering the questions as well.  Then they remember other words that they can use.  With the same picture, students then made a prediction on what would be going on in that scene.  Then, at the end, I had students make a prediction of words that they might hear in the commercial based on the images from the two pictures.  I like these techniques because they are easily done with any video.

I grabbed AnneMarie’s simple interpretive listening quiz for an activity for students to do as we watched these commercials.  Students watched the Mega BK stacker and the KFC Commercial Box 5 en 1.  We reviewed what students wrote for their interpretive listening activities.  Then, we used PearDeck Vocabulary to start reviewing more of the words for this unit.

Day 3:

Then, we started to look at longer articles around why people eat fast food.  Students read this article and explained their opinion on the article based on Martina’s Textivate activities.  Then, I had students split up and do a mock debate on whether people should eat fast food occasionally or if they should never eat it.  They had some great conversations about how frequently people should actually eat it.  This activity was great except not as many students participated as I would have liked.  At NECTFL, I learned about the idea of a silent debate where students have a discussion on one piece of paper.  You can give them sentence starters to help them discuss a bigger question and they write notes to each other back and forth with a partner.  In the future, I will do the silent debate before having them discuss the topic aloud.  This will help empower some of the quieter students.

Day 4/5:

At this point, I went to NECTFL.  I gave my students a practice interpretive reading quiz and then an interpretive reading quiz that was pretty similar.  I typically throw on a non-interpretive question with the assessment.  Since we were working on their opinion earlier, I had them explain if they agreed with the article or not in Spanish.  The practice article is here and the practice assessment is here.  I also had a GimKit for them to practice, but they didn’t get to it.

Day 6:

When I got back from the conference, I decided to really focus on one resource and evaluate the products, practices and perspectives of the culture.  I have somewhat understood this for awhile, but this was the first time that I put it into practice.  I really liked Rebecca’s analogy of a product, practice and perspective.

  • The product is a to-go coffee mug that we use in the US.
  • The practice is the fact that we carry our coffee to many places, and drink it on the go.
  • The perspective is how we value being busy in our culture.

I wanted to do the same thing in my own classes.  I decided to use a video– from Ruben’s Hamburguesas.   I set up this video in a MovieTalk way.  At the beginning, students discussed their ideal hamburger.  Then as we watched it, I pointed out important vocabulary.  This video demonstrates one reason why I love using authentic resources.  I used the phrase jitomate since it was used in the commercial since it was out of Mexico.  (A student even used that word on his final written assessment!) Then students compared these products with our own hamburgers in the US.

Day 7/8:

The next day, we had a chance to really delve into the menu.  Students recorded a few menu items on their notes.  Then, students started working on these questions or puedos.  I made sure that some of the questions tied back to the menu that they were working with.  (As I noted in my interpersonal evolution– I am getting better!)  As a class we started talking about practices around the menu.  We talked about the use of the grill and the fact that the sides were typically a bit healthier than our sides in fast food restaurants.

THEN, I pretty much learned my lesson and had students revisit this article and come up with a color, symbol and image that represented the article.  I learned that my students liked to think superficially about the article.  Since the unit was fast food, they wanted to pick colors like red and yellow; however, that wasn’t the purpose of the article.  I liked this activity because it required deeper thinking from my students.  (And the fact that it was zero prep for me was even better!)  We ended up taking two classes to really finish this activity.  Finally, I could see that they would get more out of doing this activity again.  It wasn’t a flash in the pan.  We did a write and discuss to conclude class.

Day 9/10:

Finally, we tackled perspectives.  I explained what a perspective was in general.  Then, students decided on perspectives based on the menu.  (Look at me- finally reusing an authentic resource and getting depth with it.  See also- my list of SO MANY authentic resources I typically use!)  They discussed it within small groups.  Then, I wrote them all on the board and students investigated their perspective online.  While we may make assumptions based on what we see, it is important to investigate it.

Then- we have my best laid plans and what happens when you know that you will have a snow day on the last day of the trimester!  I really wanted to explain more of the perspectives and have the students discuss what they figured out about their perspectives.  (One group thought that the salads were influenced by the US and were surprised to learn that Caesar salad was from Mexico!)  BUT, it was the last day of the trimester, and I wasn’t going to see my students for two weeks due to exams.  However, it forced some good things from me.

At the beginning of class, I wrote the perspective that the students had learned after they had investigated the original perspective.  I left these notes on the board.  Then, I did a mini-assessment.  Students used ALL of their resources to write down three comparisons with the fast food culture in Mexico and the US.  Since my students are in the intermediate level, I want them to start supporting their thoughts instead of just throwing unconnected thoughts at me.  I had them provide a detail from their notes, the article, the menu SOMETHING that supported their comparison.  (This was the idea that I was really happy with… and will probably use it in my upper levels, too!)

Whew!  That was a lot!  But, I was really happy how parts of this unit turned out, and I can’t wait to develop it further next year.  I am also looking forward to having my students continue to think more in the product, perspective and practice as they reflect on culture.  What did my students think?  In their reflections (that they did on their snow day that we ended up getting), some wrote:

  • “This heavily related to our lives.”
  • “It is interesting to see how different their cultures are in different countries.”
  • “It was challenging to debate in class.”
  • “It is very modern and a problem today.”

I hope this can help you if you would like to develop a stand alone unit or you are looking to add some culture to your food unit.

Posted in noticias, Reading

Romeo and Julieta: A story of frog love and conservation for novice high and up

romeo and julieta.jpg

Sometimes, I love a story from El Mundo en Tus Manos so much that I want to create even more materials for it.  And occasionally, I have a three day weekend, so I can do that!  Romeo used to be the world’s loneliest frog in a museum in Bolivia looking for a mate… until recently!  Scientists were scouring the forest, about to leave for the day when they found five frogs just like Romeo… including Julieta!

I made this slideshow to tell the story of these two love… frogs??

Then, I made some other fun activities.  Have your students write a fake text conversation between Romeo and Julieta- especially because now she is in quarantine until they meet on February 14th.  I also found out a lot about frogs in general.  In December, biologists found a frog in Ecuador that they thought was extinct!  I wrote up two short summaries about cloud forests in general and the other rediscovered frog.

Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 2.46.26 PM.png

This would be a fun unit to tie into an ecology unit.  Or you can save it to use around Valentine’s Day!  As we find out more about the frogs’ first date, I will keep updating it.  You can download it for free here!

(Note: It seems that the second article isn’t accessible.  Here is a new link for the two articles!)

Posted in Novel, Reading

Interpretive Reading Assessments for Novels

interpretive reading novels

As I continue to balance how I assess novels and how I implement IPAs, I have played around with how I assess how students interpret the vocabulary that students are acquiring as well as the novel itself.  For my upper levels, I typically could find an article that included a lot of the culture that we were covering in the book.  This was particularly easy for books like Frida and Vector.  However, I couldn’t do the same in my lower level classes.  I really wanted to see what vocabulary that they were acquiring and not so much discrete facts from the book.  In the past, I have searched for a story that re-used many of the words from the story that would be new for my students.  That would be somewhat successful, and I was able to see what words and ideas that my students were really acquiring.  However, it also would take a lot of time on my part to search (or create!) the story.  I also like to give a practice run of their assessments to reduce anxiety and surprise, so I would have to find a story for the practice and a story for the assessment.  That took even longer!

My level 1 students are reading La Familia de Federico Rico.  I had been putting off giving a reading assessment because I was dreading searching for TWO new stories.  Then, I decided to try a new approach (which was perhaps the obvious approach from the beginning-HA!)  I selected a paragraph worth of sentences from a chapter to rewrite.  I tried to represent a good part of the chapter, so students could use this for the comprehension and key word identification.  However, I also left out key details in the paragraph.

Then, I asked students to write two more details in Spanish that weren’t included in the paragraph.  I like this part because it is still testing their comprehension/interpretation of the chapter.  They cannot rewrite any fact that I have written.  It is also open-ended enough for them not to have to recall nitty gritty facts of the book.  While I like interpretive assignments, I like interpretive assessments that require students to apply what they have read/heard even more.  I told them that they could add on facts that occurred after the paragraph, but I wanted their facts to be related to the paragraph and not a completely different part of the book.

On this assessment, I ideally would use three paragraphs from the beginning, middle and end of the book.  I had some students leaving early, so I stuck with two this time.  #reality  However, it was SO much easier than spending 3/4 of my prep looking for a story just to quickly write up some questions.

How do you assess interpretive reading during novels?

Posted in noticias, Reading

46 pages to add to your FVR library for free!

Collection of noticias 2017-2018

Ok- I will admit, I totally went with a click bait title there!  But it is true!

As I have admitted to before, organization is not strong suit.  I have started to become better about it, but it still falls to the bottom of my list.  Organized me would print off copies of my news articles from the past year and then store them in a binder for later students to read later or the following year in my FVR library.  But, as I have discussed with my husband, I cannot compare myself to a version of me that doesn’t exist.

So instead, I stick all of my news articles from the past year into one huge PDF.  Then I can hit print once, and I am set!  I figured it this helped me- it could help you too!  This way, you can print them all in case you missed some.  You can then put them all in a binder in one fell swoop for Free Voluntary Reading.  You could also print off a few copies if you are just starting your library.

2017-2018 Noticias

If you are looking for more Spanish stories to add to your FVR collection, I recommend looking at Viviana’s post with a HUGE list of stories.

Another perfect place to start printing articles is the Revista Literal.  This magazine has tons of articles written each month by Spanish students.  It is extremely engaging, and students are able to understand it easily.

In addition, Mike Peto is the one who introduced me (and convinced me) to FVR.  You can check out his map to transitioning to FVR.

Finally, if you like these articles and would like new articles for 2018-2019, I am pairing up with Martina Bex to write a newsletter for next year.  We have already started brainstorming some of them, and I am so excited for them!

Posted in Music, Novel, Reading

Introduction: El Ekeko

Intro- El Ekeko, reading and story listening

On Monday, we are going to start with El Ekeko in Spanish 1!  I am really excited to start this book!  Many people ask how to use news articles.  One way is to find a collection of news articles for each country   To start, I had students read some of my news articles about Bolivia.  I used this article on Gran Chaco and a biologist working there.  I used this article about movies in Bolivia.  Finally, I also used this article on Morales.  I wanted an overview of the country, and I used this article, but I cut out half of it to make it more feasible for my level 1 students.  I like to throw in a menu as well, so I found this one.

On our first day, I asked questions about each article.  I put the answers into a crossword puzzle (which is why I haven’t shared it here!)  But many of the questions include: who the president is, key words in Spanish from each article, different tourist places and food highlights.  For example, I asked which dessert costs 6 bolivars.  Again, I hope that students have an introduction to a country that they haven’t really studied.  (Plus, when we print out the papers, we can go outside to read and complete the puzzle!)

On Mondays, I have started each week with Kara Jacob’s story listening for songs.  I am obsessed, and I have been seeing big gains with my students.  With El Ekeko, I read this post about using the song Latinoamérica by Calle 13.  I decided to take a crack at making my own story script.  On the doc, I shared the script with an idea for four corners activity throughout the story.  I also created a short Kahoot Jumble activity and a translation sheet.  I look forward to using this on Monday!

Posted in Favorites, Reading

Summer Reading: Ditch That Textbook

PD Reading

I am on vacation, but I just finished reading Ditch That Textbook from Matt Miller.  It was a great read!  I enjoy all of his posts on his blog, but I felt like I was able to understand more of his whole philosophy by reading the book.  As I have stated before, I have already decided to ditch my textbook for next year, but if you are on the fence, this is perfect for you.  It cemented my ideas for what to do next year.  It is a perfect balance of research and easy to implement ideas.  I took a few book snaps to highlight some of my favorite parts.  For example, I loved this idea about professional development and how to improve as a teacher:

#ditchbook #booksnaps

I appreciate reading books that further strengthen what I believe in and even challenge some of my beliefs.  It is nice to feel like you are on the same page as others since the classroom can be isolating.

In addition, Matt used to be a Spanish teacher.  I appreciate that he can use that point of view to discuss the changes that he made.  He includes all different types of teaching, and his ideas can apply to different subject matters.  However, I traditionally feel that foreign language is an “add-on” to most books.  It normally involves an out-dated approach that relies too much on whatever their method can be applied to grammar and vocabulary.  Matt is able to describe how he practiced everything in his Spanish class without a long list of vocabulary or the resources from a textbook.  I took away many easy to implement ideas, but this was one of my favorites:

#ditchbook #booksnaps #seesaw

I use Seesaw to have students blog.  I need to start thinking about ways to view their blog as I view mine.  I obviously make cumulative work with my posts, and many bloggers create the top 10 lists.  Why not do the same with students?

I highly recommend that you read this book!  I enjoyed reading it, and I read through it quickly on vacation with a three year old.  Plus, I have many new ideas to help me process the changes that I will make next year sans textbook.

Posted in Authentic resources, Reading

Comics in Spanish

Comics in Spanish

Comics are a great way to incorporate easy language into the classroom.  They are also easy to describe in Spanish as well as continuing a conversation.  Part of the difficulty is finding the perfect one when you need it.  I have been searching on this website while I watch Law and Order SVU.  I have also saved all of my favorite comics here on Pinterest that I can use in the classroom.

These would be perfect to use at the beginning of class.  You could start by describing the comics in Spanish by asking students different questions about all of them in a PictureTalk style.  Then students could answer the questions below.  It starts with some easy comprehension questions then moves to some personal questions.

I have developed questions about two comics.  I love the first one because it is about weather, and it could be easily used in the first few weeks of class!  The second one could be used with technology or restaurants.  Since I personally love Yelp, I laughed with this one!

Posted in Music, Reading

What’s happening in my classes?


What's happening in my classes?

I wanted to give two small updates of what I am doing day to day in my classes.  A few years ago, I shared song activities that I created the song Me Voy by Vazquez Sounds.  I wanted to update it this year for a few reasons.  First, their ages are off by three years now!  Second, I am loving what Elizabeth Dentlinger has been doing with her songs as interpretive listening activities.  I didn’t add as many activities as she has done per song, but I started to incorporate more parts into this song.  I will be honest, part of me wants to move away from the cloze activity; however, I like that it helps with discrete listening.  Here is my updated packet.  The video also would be great to discuss as it is playing.

Second, I really liked how Laura introduced the imperfect to her classes.  I rewrote this story about Douglas Tompkins.  He was the founder of NorthFace and Patagonia.  He bought parts of Chile, and after his death, he donated them back to Chile to form a huge park system in Chile.  I tried to use a lot of imperfect throughout the story to highlight with students.  This year, I am focusing a bit on translation with both preterite and imperfect to teach the differences.  In addition, after reading the story, I showed this video of one of the parks in Chile.  Hopefully, this will demonstrate a different part of the country that my students hadn’t thought about.  Hope these two activities help you in your classes as well.

Posted in Reading

Evolving my interpretive reading even more

Evolving my interpretive reading... even more

With switching to proficiency, I feel like I am constantly evolving.  I am always developing what I am working on with my students to support them more.  Each time I give an IPA, it becomes clearer what holes I have to fill, and I change my teaching.  This current project reflects what I am seeing from my current students and how to help them with literacy strategies.  I am so glad that I went to the session about interpretive reading at ACTFL.  Last year, I developed this activity for interpretive reading about how to decorate a bedroom.  I didn’t do much with it after that- or before that for that matter.  For the pre-reading, I created a word cloud with words using Tagul.  It was SO easy!  And it didn’t ask me for all of these plug-ins like other word cloud websites.  Here is the word cloud:

Word CloudAfter this, I had students identify words that they knew and predict the title/topic of the reading.  While some students talked about “house,” I redirected them based on what words they were actually seeing.  Then, I pulled some pictures from the article, and students wrote sentences about what they saw.

Today, I gave my students the article.  Then, I had students look at the bold words from each section.  It was broken down into numbers, so that helped my students divide the article.  They decided the main theme of each section.  After that, we reviewed the subtopics of each category.  Then, I gave them the questions to answer from last year.  I found that they were able to tackle the document much better.  Many times, students seem to get overwhelmed about all of the Spanish and forget the basic techniques that they use in English.  I am finding that the more I spend on small techniques, I will get more out of my students.  What are some of your favorite pre-reading activities?

Posted in Reading

Working on context clues in the foreign language classroom

Working with context clues in the FL classroom

As I continue to work on interpretive reading, I have found more and more that I want to work on learning how to teach some literacy skills.  (A summer professional development perhaps?)  This most recent quiz, we did a little work on context clues.  Some of the students really struggled on figuring out the context of the words.  I realized that I needed to do more work on some of these skills.  Plus these skills will not only help them in Spanish class but with reading in general.  Here are some of the techniques that I plan to implement with our readings during the rest of the year:

  • One teacher told me that I should remind to kids to look at the whole paragraph first identifying words that they know before concentrating on the specific sentence where the word is located.  They should be able to say what the theme is of the paragraph to help them identify the word.
  • I need my students to look at the structure of the article more in the beginning.  Many times, I feel like they overlook subtitles and that is where some of the questions arise.  If they paid attention to the subtitles, it would help them classify the information in the paragraphs.
  • Also, a few context clues allow for brief pop-up grammar regarding the part of speech.  That will help students determine the word as well.
  • Once the student has a prediction, then students can put the word back into the sentence to see if it makes sense or not.  In addition, it would be good to have students give a reason as to why a word should work in the sentence.  Again, the more that they think about the meaning, the more it will help them.
  • Once I have worked with some of these strategies, I can do a pre-reading activity. I have seen something similar done with an educational consultant, but it would be good to give students a prediction of context definitions before reading.  Once they read the story or article, they could determine if the definitions were accurate or not.  For example, if you were looking at 3 target words, you could give them one or two definitions that matched and one or two definitions that were incorrect.  Students predict which ones are correct and which ones are incorrect.  When they read the words in the story, they decide if the original definitions are true or false.

Overall, I think the biggest thing is not to do ALL of these strategies at once, but the more I work with reading, the more I believe that I need to continue to teach students these skills.  As I work with more and more readings, I can complete one or two of these things to reiterate how to work with words in context.  What are some strategies that you like to employ with context clues?  I would love to add some more to my bag of tricks!