Posted in Interpersonal, No Prep Required, Speaking

One idea to get novice high and intermediate students talking

Get students talking

This trimester, I have started teaching level 5.  I keep encouraging them to speak more in Spanish to various degrees of success.  However, this idea ensured that everyone spoke Spanish evenly.  As I have stated before, I really did not like presentational speaking until I saw Laura’s idea which focuses predominantly on interpersonal speaking.  My level 5 is completing a unit from Kara Jacobs about Ecuador.  (It is AMAZING!)

We started with Si tú la ves which is a standalone free part of the unit.  I personally love this song, and my students have as well!  One student even has downloaded the song and sends multiple snaps of himself singing.  (I mean if that isn’t enough motivation to try it…!)  After the unit, I put together a Google slides of a variety of places in Ecuador.  Students spent some time investigating one of the places.

In a side note, I want to promote encouraging students to use either or the unsplash photos add-on for Google slides.  Many times, students revert to Google Images.  This teaches students legal ways to find pictures.  Plus, these add-ons/website are pretty much as easy to use as Google images.

After they researched their own place, I projected each slide.  The class could read it, and then one by one raise their hand once they had a question for the student who wrote it.  I really like the differentiation of allowing students to ask their question when they are ready.  I ensured that everyone asked a question for each slide/place, and everyone had to answer questions since they had created a slide.  It also reviewed a lot of the places around Ecuador in a bit more depth, too.  You could use this for a variety of topics: restaurants in various cities, famous people, various places in nature, pieces of art or artists, etc.  You could use this in level 2 and up, and it was also low prep for me to set up!

Posted in Speaking

Talking about the Super Bowl


I am a member of the Inspired Proficiency Facebook group.  There has been a lot of talk on how to incorporate the Super Bowl into our classes.  Tomorrow will be the perfect time to talk about the Super Bowl instead of a weekend chat!  I plan on using PearDeck to scaffold and survey my students.  I like that PearDeck can show my students live results, and I can have students respond to a multiple choice poll or write a longer response.  It can also give everyone time to process and respond.  It also goes well with Google accounts.  Finally, it holds everyone responsible because it tallies who has responded.  First, I can survey who watched the show and half time show.  I can ask feelings if they were happy or disappointed with the outcome and half time show.  I also will ask who watched the Puppy Bowl for those students who do not love football.  I will select the top 4 commercials and ask students what their favorite commercials were.  Also, I am going to take some stills of commercials and have students label them in Spanish.  This can be a great review of previous vocabulary.  I love that it is easy to embed pictures, and students can write on them.  This will also continue to involve students who didn’t watch the Super Bowl.  Finally, I will ask students what they ate during the game.

Also, I found this fun authentic resource for the Super Bowl.  It is pre-Super Bowl, but it will work.  I can actually embed it into PearDeck and have students comment on words that they can identify.  ESPN Deportes has some other resources and videos including Latin American fans at the Super Bowl.  (I sympathize with that poor Buffalo Bills fan… maybe next year they will at least make the playoffs…)  Zachary Jones also has a nice collection of football/Super Bowl activities.  Also, you can ask which quarterback is better Joe Montana or Tom Brady with this infographic.  This infographic would go well with the food question, but it does include beer in the infographic.  How will you celebrate the Super Bowl tomorrow?

Posted in Conversation starters, Speaking

Thanksgiving Conversation Topics

Thanksgiving Conversation Topics

I discovered this website which has Thanksgiving table topics.  Some would be perfect for an intermediate language class.  Here are some of my favorites and a few other topics that I added in:

  • Describe tu Día de Acción de Gracias ideal.
  • Tienes que dar gracias por 3 cosas que están en la clase.
  • ¿Qué te gusta comer?
  • ¿Qué NO te gusta comer?
  • Tienes que dar gracias por una persona en tu vida.  ¿Quién es?  ¿Cómo es?
  • Escribe un poema acróstico con tu nombre y cosas especiales en tu vida.
  • ¿Qué es tu postre favorito en el Día de Acción de Gracias?
  • ¿Quién es una persona famosa quien quieres invitar a la cena del Día de Acción de Gracias?
  • Si tienes una mascota que es un pavo ¿cómo se llama?
  • ¿Juegas o miras un partido de fútbol americano?
  • ¿Vas a ir de compras el viernes?  ¿Qué vas a comprar?
Posted in Interpersonal, Speaking

Where I remind myself again that I am much better when I write things down


I am in the current transition out of bellringers.  (And not ready to post QUITE yet.)  If you follow me on Twitter, you know that this is quite the heartbreaker for me!  During the bellringer, I had time to check in with kids individually, check their homework and take attendance.  However, I have noticed that students are MUCH more attentive at the beginning of class since I eliminated bellringers, so I am still running with it.

Today, I wanted to do a MovieTalk with the video Tú by David Pareja that I found thanks to Zachary Jones.  I decided to use MovieTalk because I could recycle the video, and the students could listen to the lyrics again.  In the morning before class, I wrote out ALL of the questions that I could.  I feel that I come up with so many more questions that way!  I can always add questions in, but at least I have a reliable source to fall back on if I forget.  It also helps me to remember what I want students to remember.

I also like these types of chats because the questions are scattered throughout.  I gave each student 2-3 jewels to represent the amount of times that they had to talk.  Kids cannot tell if they answered an “easy” question or a “harder” question because the questions are scattered throughout the video.  They are excited that they answered it!  (And probably excited that they had some pretty jewels in their hands!)  I encourage everyone who struggles to sometimes come up with a follow up question or to focus on what they are saying to write down your questions.  It can seem overwhelming, but I am always glad when I do.  I also like this as I am transitioning into more interpersonal activities.

Posted in beginning of the year, Interpersonal, No Prep Required, Speaking

Take three icebreaker/brain break


Take Three IcebreakerToday, our wonderful Assistant Principal shared an awesome icebreaker.  I enjoyed it, and it could easily be done in levels 2-3 or higher in the target language.  Here is how it worked:

  • Students are in groups of 3-4 people.
  • Everyone says “take three.”
  • One person gives a category to another person in the group.  For example, they could say “favorite foods.”
  • The next person lists their top three foods.
  • Everyone says “take three.”  Then the person who lists his favorite foods gives another category like “favorite classes” to a new group mate.  That person will list their top three classes.

This would keep going until you call time.  For earlier levels, you could put categories on the board to help keep kids in the target language.  That will also give students time to think about their answers.  You could also combine this with Zachary Jones’ Como eres activity where musicians describe themselves in three words.

Posted in Integrated Performance Assessment, Speaking, writing

Interpersonal and presentational writing activity


As the year is winding down, I am preparing my students for their final IPA instead of a final exam in level 3.  Today, they will be completing an interpersonal activity then make a presentational writing activity.  (They have already read this article for an interpretive reading activity.)

Today I will give each student in pairs a health problem based on how they are living their lives.  Each partner has to ask questions to determine what is wrong with their partner.  Then, as a follow-up, they are going to write a letter full of advice to their partner as a bit of a Dear Abby activity.  They will have to take notes on what their partner says in order to successfully complete the second part of the activity.  I am including my activity below if you would like to modify it for your own use.  If you use this in a different way, let me know!  I love input from other teachers on how you use the activities I post.

interview for letter

Posted in Favorites, Speaking

The benefits of becoming a language learner

Mensa Latina

Yesterday, the cool Latin teachers allowed me to take part in Mensa Latina which is when they bring lunch, and all the students speak Latin together.  I know that this is a new trend in Latin, but it is interesting to see it play out as Latin teachers become more like modern language teachers.  The goal was to discuss family and pets.  It was easy for me (a novice) that there was a theme, and we were not expected to just talk about our lives.  One of my main reasons to go was because there was Cava  and baklava (which is amazing if you are in the DC area!), but it was cool to watch other teachers teach and remember what it was like to be a language learner.

Latin foods... and crazy feta

  • I really appreciated that they had everything labelled!  I was able to remember words later when I wanted to say “good bread!”  (It was also easier for me since it was similar to Spanish.)
  • I love that they had the Latin family tree via the Simpsons!  This is such a modern language thing that I see all the time.  I was glad to have the reference.
    Picture of Familia Tuo
  • If I spoke in Spanish (ha!), a student would yell at me “Tantum Latine.” (Only Latin!)
  • I learned the phrase “habeo” and related that to Spanish.  I also tried to speak in Latin by adding “um” to the end of Spanish words- just like a student.

It was exciting to feel like a novice low student again.  Has anyone done a “spoken” language lunch?  How do you set it up?  (If you follow me on Twitter, you can see a video of two of our Latin teachers in action!)

Posted in Speaking, Technology, Uncategorized

Voicethread Workshop

New Ways to Use Voicethread in the Language Classroom

Last week, I took a free webinar about how to use Voicethreads while teaching a foreign language.  I have been using Voicethread frequently for the past two years; however, I used it in the same manner.  This workshop gave me some new ideas on how to use Voicethread!

  • When you start to create a Voicethread, you can record a video of yourself.  This would be great when students need to answer questions or continue a story.  When you create a new Voicethread, you select webcam video to record. (See picture below.)

Voicethread Video

  • Also, you can turn on the comment moderation if you want to make a Voicethread into an assessment.  This is under the edit option once your Voicethread is created.

Voicethread Comments

The other ideas came from other participants who use Voicethread in their classes:

  • One teacher sets up a Voicethread in the form of a job interview.  She gives her students 7-8 questions to answer, and she allows them to choose some of the questions that they answer.  I really like the differentiation aspect.
  • Another teacher assigns a Voicethread for homework to prepare for a speaking task.  This way students are practicing speaking instead of writing or taking notes.
  • One teacher uses a Voicethread to practice story retells.  This would be a nice change when students have illustrated a story that they can then retell using Voicethread.
  • In big classes, one teacher said that it works for students to give feedback on an article that they have read.  He notes that it is next to impossible to have students speak in class as much as they can in a Voicethread.
  • Finally, one teacher suggested having students describe a book that they like in a Voicethread.  This would be nice to create before Free Voluntary Reading.

I really like the new versatility that I have discovered in Voicethread, and I am excited to reinvent one of my classroom staples.  How do you use Voicethread in your class?


Posted in Assessments, reflection, Speaking

Reflections on my first Interpersonal Bootcamp

Two weeks ago in #langchat, I talked about how I wanted to try more speaking assessments.  I have done one speaking assessment (other than the exam), and it took me to grade.  I procrastinated, and I never wanted to give another speaking assessment again.  (I know, that is not a good reason.)

Then Rebecca mentioned her interpersonal bootcamp!  I loved it!  I was sold, and my students completed it that week.  Here was how the process went:

  • By keeping this goal in mind, it allowed me to plan better speaking activities leading up to the activity.  It gives them a purpose for each activity, and it motivates them to speak Spanish in the classroom even more.
  • While students were taking the speaking activity, other students were completing a short, written presentational assessment.  I liked having the two samples (spoken and written) for one assessment.  It also ensured that my students worked quietly.  Finally, one student reflected that having the speaking part helped him vary his vocabulary in his writing.  I will take that!
  • I didn’t have fake jewels (will have to add that to the next Amazon Prime order!), but we used pink and purple paperclips.  It allowed students to have a reminder of who needed to talk.  Each student had to talk throughout the session.
  • I was able to get quick data, and I did not have to listen to students’ speaking for an extended period of time after class.  I also didn’t have the technical glitches with students’ recordings.  Plus, we were able to complete this activity relatively quickly and had time in class for another activity.

I was also pleased with the feedback:

  • I had plenty of notes, and this allowed me to give feedback to each group and students overall.
  • It did seem to take awhile for me to complete the feedback, but I typed up notes for each group and student.  I decided to give overall notes to the group, so I was not being repetitive and then individual notes to each student.  However, I really did not mind taking the time to give this feedback.  It didn’t seem as tedious as listening to each group THEN trying to give useful feedback.  I also feel that it is much more valuable than circling or highlighting something on a rubric.  See one group’s feedback below:


Reflecting on Interpersonal Bootcamp

In the future, I would want to change a few things:

  • I think I will participate a bit more.  While I did not want to interfere with the process, some groups got off topic then they hadn’t addressed the topic, but they had spoken on their turns.  This way, they can still participate, and I can make sure I have enough data to assess them accurately.
  • I also think that it is one thing to be able to talk to fellow students who use a smaller amount of vocabulary.  As a teacher, I am able to impart more vocabulary and harder questions.
  • I also needed to emphasize the fact of making it an actual conversation.  Only a few groups asked follow-up questions, so it became more of a question and everyone answers process.
  • I would also like to change it up with an EdPuzzle or Zaption video activity while students are speaking.  This would change up the process and also keep students quiet.

Finally, if you are going to start this, I would have done some of the initial things differently:

  • As my students were practicing their speaking, I would have practiced scoring.  I became a lot better as the classes went on.  However, it would have been easier on me if I had practiced earlier.  This would have also provided more notes for myself.
  • I would have emphasized staying on topic.  Many of my students would just ask different questions and then they would drag others off topic.
  • I would also watch what I wrote as a prompt.  I wanted them to talk about any family members that they visited over break, but they discussed how many family members they have in general.  In that case, I also am not sure how clear I was with the “can-do” statements.

With all that being said, overall, I loved it!  I felt that my students did better than I expected.  I planned on completing one this week with my middle school students, but we haven’t been back to school since Thursday!  I will continue to use this assessment throughout the year.  Thanks Rebecca for the great suggestion!

Posted in Assessments, Speaking

Speaking Assessment Reflection

This past week I used VoiceThread to create a speaking assessment.  We are reviewing families, and I wanted students to talk about their families.  I gave them question prompts to help them.  In order to facilitate this, we used VoiceThread.  Here was what I liked about VoiceThread:

  1. It was easy to start for me.
  2. It would call the students.  I think this allowed it to feel a bit more personal.  It also helped block out some of the noise since they had the phone to their ear.  It also doesn’t pick up as much noise with the phone.  Due to this fact, I was also able to have them all in the class to make sure they weren’t reading off a script.
  3. It recorded it all in one place to make for easy grading. (We used the same VoiceThread.  I disabled automatic playback, so students wouldn’t always hear everyone’s when they started.)
  4. Students reported that it was easy, and no one complained when people were talking at once.
  5. It took about 20ish minutes with me explaining everything which for the first time is great!

Here was the one big downfall: Many times the phone would hang up on students. Or it would start talking to them again, and it would confuse them.  I would let them call back, but I would prefer one smooth recording.  I am not sure if they talked too long.  Again, students seemed to get over the phone hanging up on them, but ideally, I would like to have a program that does not.  What programs do you use?  I thought about Vocaroo, but then they would all have to submit it, and it does not call the students.  I welcome more input!