Posted in Presentational, writing

Starting an evolution: presentational writing

My Post (2)

One of the biggest things that attracts me to teaching is how much I can evolve and change as an educator.  The field itself is changing, and as I learn more and figure out how to apply more, my own teaching changes.  This challenges and pushes me.

One point that I am starting to evolve is presentational writing.  Implementing IPAs can appear easy initially.  Most teachers have given students a writing prompt before.  So you give your writing prompt, apply a rubric and BAM!  Presentational writing is done.  (I actually thought the same thing about doing interpretive reading as well!)

However, that is not as easy as it seems.  I have found that both my teaching practice and how I assess students with IPAs continually changes and evolves.  When our department was first discussing presentational writing, we discussed a variety of questions.  Are students allowed to prepare it ahead of time or do they need to write spontaneously without any dictionary help for assessments?  I was firmly in the spontaneous camp.  I believed that the only way I would truly be able to grade my students’ performance on a writing assessment was if they did not have any dictionaries.  Then one night in a discussion on Twitter, a professor mentioned that many students graduate high school without ever writing a paper in Spanish that they work on and revise.  It hit me!  I was teaching a level 5 Spanish class.  I teach a lot of seniors who will have to be writing college Spanish papers in another semester.  Was I preparing them by not having them work on any paper that they could revise in Spanish?  I decided that I needed to ensure that they were able to write a formal paper and revise it.  Although then I had to figure out how to assign a formal paper!

First, I crowd sourced aka asked friends on Twitter to find out how long university professors required papers from their students.  Most required around a page to two pages.  I decided that one page would be manageable for my students.  Many of my students wrote longer than the required page, but I wanted it to seem attainable.  Plus, it was in the range of what would be expected next year for them.  My students had just finished a unit on narcoviolencia in Mexico.  I listed a few topics that we had discussed, but I allowed them to evolve their topic based on the research they found.

I also required them to use a Spanish news article for research.  While I can find information in English, then write it in Spanish, it will be easier for them to find an article in Spanish.  I gave them a list of websites/YouTube news channels that I use to research during our unit.  I also would help them if they were having trouble finding articles on their topic because it is much easier for me to skim read an article than it is for them.

I gave them ample time to work on it in class, so they wouldn’t feel rushed.  I also gave deadlines, so they had to complete certain parts by various times.  Even with older students, I believe that this helps them overall.  The main deadline was to have about half to 3/4 of a page complete, so we could do writer’s workshop in class.

Writer’s workshop allowed me to take the time to give more feedback then as well.  I used guidance from Heather Sherrow and this NECTFL presentation by Noemi Rodriguez and Lucia Zamora.  I created two “lines” of students on my board, and I would rotate one line to be partnered with the other.  Then they would share responsibility of checking one item on each draft.  I like this because some students are better at editing, and this gives students more feedback their essay.  Here is the station rotation model that I used with writer’s workshop.  The one thing that I am trying to help my students with is remembering to use the correct tense.  I have been giving a lot of input, and I am seeing the benefits; however, when they write, I think they can be more cognizant of what they are actually trying to say.

As I have thought about this, I have thought about where to place presentational writing in our curriculum.  I believe that it can be done in level 4 towards the end of the year as well.  As for my class, I will have one due in the next trimester as well.  I hope to have formal presentational writings each trimester in level 5 next year.  This is just the beginning of my implementation.  I would love to hear how others implement presentational writing in upper levels.  What are your suggestions?

Posted in writing

Mad Libs

Mad Libs for Spanish students

As I have been playing around with getting students to share more about themselves, sometimes, I will run into the student who doesn’t like to share a lot.  At times, I can say be creative, but some students do not feel comfortable doing so.  I am hoping that these Mad Libs can allow students to become more creative in class.  I tried to recreate some Mad Libs that could fall into different categories that teachers use.  I wrote six Mad Libs with one about Homecoming.  I also put a grid at the top with examples of each category.  Enjoy!


Posted in Presentational, writing

How to start teaching proficiency: Presentational

How to start teaching proficiency: presentational

Thank you to everyone who has commented about my series this week and has read along! The last piece, presentational, is one of the easier ones to incorporate into your assessments because I am sure that you are already having students write and/or present.  However, I would suggest a few changes to improve upon these assessments.

I always thought that I was assessing students’ writing.  I would write a required number of sentences, and each sentence was worth two points each.  I would take off a full point if I could not tell what a student was saying in any section.  For smaller things such as verb conjugation, I would take off a half point.  I have never been a stickler for accent marks.  Then, that would be my students writing score!  Sometimes, I would add in points for using vocabulary words of that unit.  However, when I started using the presentational rubric, I noticed that I was missing different parts of their writing.  Were they writing basic sentences every time?  Were their thoughts organized?  Were they using vocabulary that they learned in the first few weeks of Spanish or had they started to add in more vocabulary that we had just learned?

Therefore, my first suggestion is to use a rubric.  If you do not have one, I suggest Sara-Elizabeth’s rubric or Ohio’s rubrics.  Again, I suggest sticking with someone else’s rubric initially until you decide what you want to do.  If you see something you definitely want to change, go for it, but don’t spend all summer deciding about the intricacies and wording of your rubrics.

The second change is to add more of a purpose and audience to your writing.  I had some very creative topics for my writing!  Students could write about an ideal date to a restaurant or a fairy tale.  I would also have them describe a picture which gave them a lot to discuss.  While I can still encourage this to prepare for writing, it did not have a specific audience or purpose.  However, a more recent presentational writing, I had students write an article for the gym that they attend about how they stay fit.  This is realistic because many people in the area speak Spanish, but in my experience, many places do not cater to people who speak Spanish.

In order to prepare my students, I did a few of these activities:

  • My students journal in Seesaw frequently to practice writing.
  • I had students complete a running dictation then connect the sentences into a coherent letter to help them organize their writing.
  • I will definitely use Adobe Spark for presentational speaking this year.
  • As I mentioned yesterday, I had students write after they completed an interpersonal conversation.
  • My students struggled to write in paragraphs in my last IPA.  I really want to encourage them to organize their paragraphs more this year.
  • I also did a variation of this to help students write longer sentences.  We discuss not to solely write sentences like this just like they would not write like that in English.
  • I have also had students complete different graphic organizers prior to writing.
  • I have a collection of presentational activities and assessments on Pinterest as well.

I haven’t done a lot of presentations because I do not like to spend so much time having every student present.  I also feel like if they do it at home, they will use their notes too much etc.  I am thinking about a way to create quick presentations for this year; the only caveat is that there is no interaction in presentational versus interpersonal.  I am also trying to think of an authentic reason to have a presentation in Spanish.  Stay tuned!  Again, last year I stuck with presentational writing, and this year, I will branch out.  Let me know if you have any questions about these posts!  I would love to help you feel able to fit these assessments easily into your curriculum.

Posted in Integrated Performance Assessment, writing

Developing presentational writing

Developing Presentational Writing

As my students continue to prepare for their final IPA, I wanted them to work on their skills for presentational writing.  This is a bit difficult for me to plan because I haven’t specifically worked on this in class before.  It is easier for me to specifically target one or two things in the rubric.  I was inspired by Martina Bex to try this activity.

I started with a running dictation relay.  I spread 7 different sentences around the room that could be in a letter.  Students completed this with a partner in a traditional running dictation style.  Then, I had students put all of the sentences together in a paragraph focusing on making it more coherent.  Many times my students will write sentences, but they do not combine them cohesively.  This allowed them to focus on that part.  Once students completed the assignment, they compared letters.

I liked this activity for numerous reasons.  I liked that I could model the sentences for them.  The base sentences also made it easier for students to compare work and see how each group treated the challenge.  I also like that it was more kinesthetic before they sat down to write.  When we practice writing, I like to allow students to be more engaged.

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 Authentic resources, Listening, Reading, writing

Combining authentic resources

Combining Authentic Resources
“Beach strewn with plastic debris.” US Fish and Wildlife Services. (Spet. 2009)

While I enjoy being able to really milk one authentic resource, I also like being able to combine different authentic resources for students on one topic.  I saw a textbook do this successfully, and I liked it.  This will give them a well-rounded view of the theme.  We are discussing the environment in my Spanish III class which is an immense topic.  I want to give my students a few topics to explore in depth.  One topic is the sea of plastic in the oceans.

First, I gave my students an infographic to take general notes.  This gives good graphics and statistics on the information.

Next, my students looked at an article about the main countries that contribute to the island in the Pacific.  This article is pretty dense, so I gave my students some guiding questions.  They are:

  1. ¿Cuáles son los países que tiran la basura en el mar?
  2. ¿Qué tiran las personas?
  3. ¿Cuánto plástico tira la gente de Argentina?
  4. ¿Cuánto plástico estará en el océano en 2025?

Finally, my students completed a Zaption using a video that talked about the sea of plastic.  This gave students more questions to complete to understand the video.

Once my students looked at all three sources, they summarized:

  1. What happens with all of the plastic and where the plastic islands are
  2. Who contributes to the problem
  3. How this problem affects the sea life

Then, students will write questions from each article to have a discussion in class.  This will allow them an interpersonal part of the discussion.  I like the support that these authentic resources give my students while allowing them the opportunity to see new words.

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 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 Authentic resources, Speaking, writing

Doctor unit twist


I found this great idea from Carrie Toth for a medical unit.  We are exploring the same topic in class now.  I had my students do something similar, but I allowed them to create three symptoms that could be unrelated.  I also found this awesome resource that is like a WebMD in Spanish, but it is a bit easier.  If you click on the problems, they have the diagnosis in bold letters, so that makes it easier for my students to understand.  I am going to allow them to select a diagnosis.  They will also make recommendations and finally present their person to the class.  They were really excited to draw, and I think they will be excited to share their discoveries!  I am attaching the sheet that I am using for them to present:

problemas medicos