Peer Review of Email FRQ in AP (Adapting strategies to remote learning, part 2)

One of the strategies that I find helpful in working with students to improve their writing performance is peer reviewing. Using it as a step between “first draft” and “hand it in to the teacher” has been beneficial in reducing oversight errors and improving the overall product.  I want to continue using it even though we are at a distance.  My first attempt this year crashed & burned because I made it too complicated.

Thankfully, I have a group of experts who are willing to help me grow & improve: my students. When it was clear that what I had designed (pairs in Google Meets–18 of them running simultaneously) was NOT going to work, I asked for their help and we recreated the design together. And it was much better.

I shared the resulting document (which you can find here) with students via Google Classroom, making a copy for each student. Due to our current tech limitations, we abandoned the required video conference, but the feedback was still good.  There are directions in the document that are specific to our class and our logistics. You can easily edit them for your context, and I opted to leave them in to give you an idea how it worked in our class.

Do you remember? (Adapting strategies to remote learning, part 1)

This is the first in a series of posts on strategies I’m adapting in my classroom during remote digital learning.

My current school schedule is on alternating days (A day/B day) with 55 minute periods .  As a result, we always have 2 days from one class to the next, and sometimes have 3 or 4 if we have a long weekend.  That’s a lot of time for new content to fade!  When we are face to face, Puedos help to bridge the gap, but our current technology limitations don’t always allow us to use them in a way where the ends justify the cost in time.

Enter retrieval grids.  The idea is somewhat similar to Puedos, but with a bit of a longer term twist.  Whereas Puedos are built around a particular unit and its I can statements, retrieval grids are designed to draw attention to the most current lessons AND key content from previous units in order to keep it fresh.  I use Puedos as warm-ups, but see retrieval grids as being warm-ups, transition activities, and self-checks.

I plan to put students in their small groups and use a grid as a bit of a review as we wind up our first unit.  While this grid only has content from the first unit, future grids will pull in content from other units.  Here’s an example of my grid for an intermediate unit on community service & volunteering in the community:

While the activity is currently set to be a small group social task, this is also a good benchmark of our progress through the unit so far.  It would be easy to convert these into a series of brief assessments, and my hope is that students will gain confidence in seeing that they can do the tasks outlined here.


Tech Vocab for Maintaining TL Use in Distance Classes

Last week I realized that we had a hole in our class vocabulary: tech terms necessary for functions associated with distance learning.  When we are in class together, we don’t need terms like “mute” and “unmute”, but we certainly do in a remote setting, especially one where we are trying to maintain a high level of comprehensible and comprehended TL use.  Since my classes are levels 4 and AP this year, I’m striving to use Spanish for the vast majority of our time together, “saving” English only for when we need it the most.

After input from my Twitter PLN, I’ve made a resource to support students with some high frequency terms.  In addition to sharing this with students in class, I’ll add it to our digital tech notebook for their reference.  You can get a full size copy here.

Essential tech vocab.001.jpeg

Update 8/23: The power of the PLN is strong!  Ada Morley (@MmeMORLEY) has made a French edition, which you can access here.

Street Food Latin America

Netflix recently launched a drool-worthy series about food and culture including five Spanish-speaking Latin American countries: Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, and Peru. Though there is debate around whether certain foods highlighted are actually “street foods”, I think the series was fascinating and captivating.

I teamed up with two incredible colleagues–Kara Jacobs (@karacjacobs, and Maris Hawkins (@Marishawkins,–to collaborate, conquer, and create viewing guides and activities to accompany each episode. There are intermediate level resources for each episode that include pre-viewing, during viewing, and post-viewing activities. There are interpretive reading tasks, cultural comparison activities, a touch of geography and much more!  Maris made also viewing guides with more scaffolding for middle school students for the Bolivia and Colombia episodes.  We also included activities to use to compare 2+ episodes to each other.  It’s been a lot of fun and I’m really proud of what we’ve produced! You can see it all for free here.

AP Preguntas Esenciales + Comparaciones Culturales (Structures & Strategies for supporting student success and teacher sanity)

As we are preparing to return to school remotely for at least the first quarter, I’m taking a fresh look at several resources that I use regularly in class to see how they might work in our current environment.  I’ve had students maintain a spreadsheet of topics for the cultural comparison task before, but students either loved it or hated it. As a result, it’s been in the back of my mind to revamp it.  I wanted to keep the positives and address the complaints and reservations that students had about the document.  I also wanted to make stronger connections between the essential questions and the things we are learning in class.  Finally, I wanted something that could be done remotely and still be organized and streamlined.

Enter one of my favorite productivity and design sites: SlidesMania.  SlidesMania offers dozens of free templates for PowerPoint and Google Slides, including interactive slide decks that allow me to edit rather than start from scratch.  It is a total gold mine!  Using one of their templates, I created a digital notebook for AP to bring this whole project together.  You can check it out here.  As always feedback is helpful, especially before I roll it out to classes in a couple weeks.

Color Esperanza: a musical module for distance learning

As the countdown is on for classes to resume, my district has made the decision to use distance learning to start the year.  As a result, I’m working on adapting resources to function better in this altered environment.  Thanks to Lisa McHargue’s influence, I started playing with Go Formative this spring and have decided to pilot it as a key component of online learning this year.

I also feel like we could use a positive beginning to this year, and Color Esperanza fits the bill.  The original song is an oldie but goody 🙂 by Diego Torres.  It was re-released this spring with an all-star cast of performers in order to raise funds for COVID relief in Latin America.  I’ve taken activities like I would use in class and adapted them with Go Formative so that we can use it as one of our first week activities for Spanish 4/AP.  You can get a copy of the module here.  Feedback is always welcome & appreciated.

Building a Language Bridge

One of the silver linings of our unexpected extended work-from-home situation has been more time to read and tackle some lingering projects.  One of those projects was to develop some sentence builders as inspired by Gianfranco Conti. Not only do they help to bridge from input to output for students, they also can be very helpful in bridging gaps created by our sudden change in teaching and learning during the pandemic.

I’m still learning how to maximize this technique, but thought I’d share some of what I’ve developed so far.  I’d love to have your feedback!

For level 1: family, pets, & tener

For level 2: entertainment: movies & tv

AP Simulated Conversation Practice

As we enter the home stretch for the AP Spanish Language & Culture exam, I’m focused on helping students continue to grow their language skills AND comfort level with the exam format.  Unfortunately, many of the things I would normally do at this point in the year are not viable due to our remote learning constraints.  One thing that I think will be helpful will be additional conversation practice based off of questions from the old format of this task.

When we started remote learning, students signed up to work with a conversation partner.  They have been “meeting” regularly to chat and compensate for our lack of time together in class.  Using this resource, I have assembled a paired conversation simulation from an old handout that had a bunch of these types of questions.  I don’t know the original source, but the questions are good!  They also follow a somewhat predictable format of the old conversation style tasks, so we talked about that framework as well.  While I don’t know that the format exactly mimics this year’s exam, I think that they’ll be helpful nonetheless. If you would like to see the slide show with the questions, you can view a copy here.  I hope it’s helpful for you!

Update 6 May: I’ve prepared another set of these questions for partner practice.  Also included is a slide to help students get ideas of how they might add details to their responses to show off their amazing skills!  Get the second set here.  Enjoy!


Weekend Update: Quarantine Edition

I finally finished a project that’s been rolling around in my mind for a while: an at-home edition of weekend update.  This edition has less emphasis on weekends and more on what we’ve been doing during our time at home.

Update 9/19/2020 Other versions (all Spanish) (gracias @jahdai7 for your perceptive eye & editing!)

Weekend past Weekend chat spanish preterit quarantine

Weekend simple future weekend chat spanish quarantine simple future

Weekend future Weekend chat spanish future quarantine

Update 9/20/2020 Thanks to @MrFisherSays, there are now versions in German.  Future and past are separate pages in the same document here.


To see previous discussions of Weekend Update, check out the post here.

Filling in gaps: historical intro to La Hija del Sastre

We are about to start reading Carrie Toth’s reader La Hija del Sastre and I wanted to provide a foundation of the time period for students before we began.  As is often the case, Pablo at Dreaming Spanish had just what I needed in the form of this video.  I also wanted students to have the information available to them for reference, so I decided not to use EdPuzzle as I often do, but rather created this handout to accompany the video.  I hope you find it helpful!