Posted in Uncategorized, Warm-up activity

Bellringers and I are never getting back together… Like Ever.

Adobe Spark (16)

So earlier this year, I wrote a post about breaking up with my bellringer.  I was nervous about not using it.  It was everything that I had learned was “good pedagogy.”  It was on my teacher observation checklist!  It worked for me… somewhat.  But brain research really wasn’t on my side.  And it was BORING (mostly).  Occasionally, we would start with a interesting game etc, but many times, it was a handout or book activity… that we needed to go over.  So by the time we really started it was far into class.

I realized that I didn’t come back and discuss how it went when we started a Twitter discussion about it.  I ended up keeping a similar schedule from my original blog post.  We would do the special person interview (and later in the year weekend review.)  To keep it fresh, one of my favorite weekend review options was on this blog.  Other days, I would start with Free Voluntary Reading.  To keep some accountability, I would have students find two new words to them to share with a partner.  Or we would do some booksnaps.  I started my level 2s with five minutes of reading then I bumped it up to seven or eight minutes by the end of the year.  In addition, I would either do a song or a MovieTalk as well.  I would also play around with commercials during February and the music mania in March.  I also would mix in some PictureTalk as well.  Because we would typically assess once a week, this would summarize my week of “warm-ups”!

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to take attendance or check homework.  I managed to fit that in later in the class.  I rarely forgot to take attendance.  (Although sometimes I would forget to check homework… but that is probably for the best!  I am changing up my homework this year anyway.  Don’t ask me what, but I won’t have a work book to make students complete.)

I was also worried that students wouldn’t know to “get started” or that there would be discipline problems with them getting started.  I found that they settled down just as much as they did before with a bellringer.  They knew that class was starting and they didn’t act any different than they would have with a bellringer.  I like the same flow of my class.  As I wrote in my previous blog, I think this helped me further back away from the textbook as I wasn’t relying upon a textbook activity for my bellringer.  I believe that it made my class more engaging overall.  I encourage you to try to move away from the bellringer this year!  Also- check out how Laura moved away from bellringers this year and how she started her class.

Posted in Warm-up activity

Breaking up with my bellringer

What to do in place of a traditional warm-up in a FL class

I love bellringers!  I feel that they start off the class easily.  They provide routine for my class and students.  I can take attendance AND check homework.  While I am checking homework, I can check in with students and answer any questions that they have.  Each day, I would write the name of the class, and right below that, I would write the bellringer.

After working with Sara-Elizabeth and following along with #langchat, I am starting to break up with my bellringer this year.  Essentially, instead of finally working in that ONE book activity that I do (I probably need to break up with my textbook too, but that is a story for another day…), I have started each day with input.  In order to keep myself sane, I have started with a pattern.  We have a rotating block, so our classes drop one day.  My pattern has been:

  • Persona Especial: An interview with one student per week.  This will later be transitioned into a weekend discussion.
  • Song: Starting with a song as input instead of randomly inserting it later.  Also, if I introduce the singer, it involves even more input initially!
  • Reading: I am making sure to have students complete FVR every week.
  • MovieTalk for the song video

Overall, I have found my pattern is working out. Students seem ready to go, and they do seem to pay attention more at the beginning of class than after a traditional bellringer/warm-up activity.  I like that I have maintained some predictability for the students by keeping a pattern.  Also, I have found it helps with my planning to have this pattern as well.  I have to decide about the song, but other than that, I have a starting point from each day.  As I *knock on wood*, I have also found a small moment to take attendance and check homework before it is too late in class.  I will say that the one drawback is that I have not been able to have that one-on-one moment to check with students at the beginning of the block.

How do you start your classes?  How do you check in individually with each student?  Any suggestions as I continue down my bellringer-less road?


Posted in No Prep Required, Warm-up activity

More Brain Breaks in the Target Language

Brain Breaks in the Target Language

Happy Monday!  My last brain breaks was extremely popular, so I wanted to add on some more brain breaks that you could use especially as we are getting closer to summer!

  1. This number spots addition would be tricky!  Each student has a partner.  The partner points to two different spots on his or her own body.  The other student must name the numbers and add them.  Here are the spot numbers: right shoulder= 1, right ear= 2, nose= 3, left ear= 4, and left shoulder= 5.  This would be a good review of numbers and body parts.
  2. This “junk bag” brain break reminds me of the higher order questions for students.  A teacher takes out an object such as a marker or a toy, and students say what you can or cannot do with it.  If you add what you cannot do with it, it would be more accessible for lower level students.  For example, you cannot swim with a pen.  Then students share their answers.
  3. The symbolic alphabet (from the same website) would also be good in partners.  Students can say words that start with the letter instead of the letter in the target language.  This would also be a great warm-up activity.  For beginners, you may want to help with certain letters.
  4. I am sure that most of us have used line-up activities, but I like the new ideas here.  Some of them include- who ate pizza most recently, time you went to bed last night and who has the longest thumb!
  5. I like the idea of a smile break and you could chat about the image in the target language!
  6. There is an online game of Boggle which would be fun to do as well for two minutes.
  7. Finally, the sentence game would be good to do at the end of the year!  One student states one word, then another student repeats their word and add another word.  Then the third student repeats the first two words until they form a complete sentence, and no one can add anything onto the sentence.  You can collect the sentences and see which class can create the longest sentence.

Have you tried any of the other brain breaks?  What is your favorite brain break?


Posted in No Prep Required, Warm-up activity

Using tongue twisters in class


Using Spanish tongue twisters

I am currently reading Conti and Smith’s newest book, and I highly recommend it!  I feel reaffirmed with what I am doing, and it also gives many new ideas to use the next day in class.  One piece of advice is to try tongue twisters to help with pronunciation.  I typically do not pay too much attention to pronunciation because I believe that the students will improve as they hear it more.  However, this was a fun warm-up, and the students seemed to really enjoy it.  I am going to continue to try it every few weeks!  It is a quick warm-up and no prep since the tongue twisters are already written.  I compiled a list of tongue twister websites:

  • We started with these from Speaking Latino.
  • This list has 117!  And it lists the translations below.  There are also some short ones that would be good for beginners.
  • This website also has an impressive list.
  • This website groups them by topics and has a lot of common topics such as family and fruits.  (On an unrelated side note, it also has some illustrated sentences and quotes which is pretty cool!)
  • And if those aren’t enough… there is MORE!
Posted in No Prep Required, Warm-up activity, writing

Warm-up: Write poetry


Warm Up: Writing Poetry for Novice Language LearnersJust because my students are novices doesn’t mean that they can only write in sentences!  When I read Deb Blaz’s book (I suggest ALL of them though), she suggests trying all different types of writing.  My students in Spanish II wrote poems today as their warm-up.  Here are some ideas that your students could write:

  1. Acrostic:  Choose a word in the target language and write one word with the letter in the target language as well.  It is even better if all of the words are in the same theme.
  2. Cinquain: Line 1= title (one word), line 2= description (2 words), line 3= action (3 words), line 4= feelings (4 words), and line 5= title (synonym for the first word)
  3. Diamante: Line 1= noun or subject (one word), line 2= two adjectives to describe the first word, line 3= three -ing verbs for line 1 (-ando/-iendo in Spanish), line 4= four nouns, two that are associated with line 1 and two that are associated with line 7, line 5= three -ing verbs for line 7, line 6= two adjectives for line 7 and line 7= noun

I always like giving students new ways to use the language, and I have found this to be a fun activity!

Posted in No Prep Required, Quick Tip, Warm-up activity, writing

Quick Tip: Practice with Vocabulary in Spanish a la Marzano

Vocabulary Strategies Spanishmarzano spanish vocab

I wrote awhile ago about how to practice vocabulary.  I had an old handout without an electronic copy of this activity.  I searched online for an updated version in Spanish, but I could not find one.  Some of them also seemed geared toward elementary students.  I wanted to make a version for my high school students.  Our learning specialist reminded me of this activity, and it is perfect for review.

It is easy to transfer for other languages.  I made columns for the word in Spanish, a sentence, a synonym or antonym and a picture.  Hopefully, this activity saves you some time!

Posted in beginning of the year, Warm-up activity

Brain Breaks in the Target Language

12 Brain Breaks for the FL Classroom

As I have been reflecting on my class this summer, I decided that I want to use more brain breaks when school starts.  However, I would like them to be in the target language.  I wanted to come up with a reference list to use while I am lesson planning.  I have compiled 12 brain breaks to use that will be effective in a foreign language class.  I found the first batch here:

  1. Nose-ear change: This could easily be explained to beginning students using TPR (Total Physical Response), and it would allow for repetitions of body parts.  You could also try to include different ones.  The students hold their right ear with their left hand and hold their nose with their right hand.  Then, they switch to hold their left ear with their right hand and their nose with their left hand.
  2. Vocabulary Hot Potato: Students stand in a circle.  One student says a vocabulary word and passes the ball to the person next to them.  That student has to state the first letter in the word and passes the ball to the next person.  That person adds another letter.  This continues until the word is spelled completely.  This would also review the alphabet that students may have not used since the first few days of Spanish!
  3. Snowball: This would be a better ice breaker than brain break, but you could shorten it up by only including one fact or one thing that students did over the weekend.  Students write 3-5 facts about themselves in the TL.  They then ball up their paper, and students have a “snowball” fight with the papers.  Each student retrieves one “snowball.”  Students then have to guess who wrote down which facts.
  4. Getting Warmer: I changed this to be more focused in the TL.  One student leaves the class, and another student hides an object.  When the first student returns, all of the students must give verbal clues in the TL without moving at all to help the student find the object (right left up down behind etc.).
  5. All My Neighbors: Students form a circle and have one less chair than students.  The remaining student will go to the center.  He or she will try to make a statement that other people can identify- for example, he can say “All of my neighbors wear hats.”  The students who are wearing hats have to change seats.  Whoever is left must say the next statement.  With beginners and early intermediates, you can write down the statements.  This would also make the game go a bit faster.

The next batch are from this website:

  1. Calm Down: This would be easy to demo using TPR as well.  While your students are standing or sitting, they cross their right leg over their left leg at their ankles.  Then, they cross their right wrist over their left wrist and interlace their fingers.  Finally, students bend their elbows, so their hands touch their chest.  Then they can take deep breaths.
  2. Push your brain buttons: This could be done in the TL, but you could also just teach students to do this to increase blood flow to their brains before testing!  Students must make a U shape with their thumb and pointer finger.  They put this “U” in the center of their chest below their collarbone.  Then, they put their left hand over their bellybutton.  They push these two spots for about 2 minutes.
  3. Chair Action:  This is great for practicing TPR!  You could add different verbs.  Students sit in their chair, and the teacher plays music.  Students must mimic the motion to the pace of the music (fast or slow).  Some suggested actions are: hiking- students swing their arms right and left while tapping their feet; swimming- students move their arms like they are doing the forward crawl and flutter their feet; cycling- students hold on to the chairs and pedal like they are riding a bike; paddling- students pretend to paddle a canoe; and boxing- students box an imaginary foe.

Finally, these last brain breaks come from this website:

  1. Thankfulness Post-its: Students write down what they are thankful for on a post-it.  You can have a designated space for the post-it.  You could also do this as a graffiti activity.  (According to the website, practicing gratitude makes us 10% happier!)
  2. Mid Class Ticket: Instead of entrance tickets or exit tickets, try a Mid Class ticket!  Students can write down what is happening or any questions that they have.  What a great reflection piece!
  3. Love Letters: Write an encouragement statement to a stranger then post it around school.  This would also be neat to see the target language all over school!
  4. Throwback Thursday: Bring in a picture of yourself from when you were younger and describe it in the target language.  Students bring in photos and describe themselves as well!

I feel like this is a good list to start!  What are your favorite brain breaks to use with students?

Posted in game, No Prep Required, Warm-up activity, writing

Sentence/picture warm-up

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.46.31 PM

I just found an amazing idea for a warm-up via the Red Headed Hostess!  You can start with sentences on top of the paper.  Each student should have one piece of paper.  You can either write all of the sentences to review target vocabulary/structures, or the students can each write their own sentence.  The papers move about 8 times, so you only need 8 different sentences per class.  After the students write their sentence, they fold the paper then pass it to their left.  That person illustrates the sentence, they cover up the sentence, and continue to pass it to their left. The next person writes a sentence to describe the picture.  The group continues the write, fold, draw, fold pattern until the end of the sheet.  Then at the end, you can see how the sentence changed.  It is like a written telephone game!  What fun! I am going to try this tomorrow!  I am including a copy of the game in Spanish below.


Posted in Warm-up activity, writing

Writing magical chairs

I can’t believe that I haven’t mentioned one of my favorite writing activities!  A few times a year, I like to do writing musical chairs.  Students must start writing.  Sometimes I give them a topic (today it was what they dream about when they are sleeping), and other times, they can choose their topic.  I start playing music.  When I stop, they have to stop writing and move to another chair.  They read that story and continue it.  I continue this for about 10 minutes.  It takes them awhile to read and start writing.  I also like to give a few longer pauses and shorter pauses.  Students really enjoy this, and they love returning to their paper to see what everyone has written!

Posted in culture, Warm-up activity

Warm-up activity: Secret country

I found this warm-up activity on the Busy Teacher website (which I love!)  It is perfect for Spanish!  You can start to describe what people are doing in a secret country that speaks Spanish.  You could start by talking about traditional foods from that country, famous people from the country etc.  As students guess different countries, you can add more obvious facts such as the capital, the political leader, and surrounding countries.  I love this idea before having students listen to a song from that country because It is a great introduction.  You could also bring in something authentic to share from that country or show a slideshow of pictures.  I read Teach Like a Pirate this summer, and one thing that the author mentions is building suspense.  This activity would build excitement and suspense for any country.  The possibilities are endless!  Have you tried something like this?  How did it work?