Strength in Numbers (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 3)

My classes this year are large–ranging from 30-35 each period, including my two AP Language & Culture blocks.  Relationship building is essential for any class, but I feel it is particularly important in my large AP classes.  Since I am dramatically outnumbered, I need them to work together, trust one another, and feel comfortable together.  Our school has over 2000 students, so the first days are critical for building community because (unlike the tiny high school I attended back in the day) they don’t all know each other.

Taking a page from the Persona Especial/Estrella del Día techniques that I use in my lower level classes, we will start our class with small group interviews.  Students will be choose their own seats, and then work with groups of about 3-4 sitting near them.  Using the first page of this handout (AP cooperative group profiles) as a guide, they will interview each other in Spanish and take notes accordingly.  This gives me a few minutes to mingle and listen on the first day, and it gives them a low(er)-stress environment to interact in TL.  Afterwards, we will use some PQA to get to know each other a bit and to model some aspects of what to expect in class this year.  These groups will be their base groups for activities throughout the month.  We are on an A/B schedule, so a month of working together is about 10-12 classes.

The final touch is on the back of the page.  After working together in these collaborative groups for the month, we take a few moments to celebrate and encourage.  Each student will give his/her paper to another in the group, who will fill out the first box, then rotate, continuing until everyone in the group has had a chance to write affirmations and encouragement on each others’ papers.  Each student receives his/her paper back with positive vibes provided by the others from the group.  The next class–coinciding with the new month–we arrange new groups with some different questions in the new chart, and the process begins again.

I know this idea originally came from another teacher, but I cannot locate the reference. If you know,  please tell me!!

Reference cards help keep me in TL (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 2)

This summer I worked with several of the Dreaming Spanish videos to prepare them for use in my classes.  Inspiration hit me: having a quick reference for calendars, colors, weather, seasons, and maps ready to go and at my fingertips (like Pablo in the videos) would be super helpful for helping keep up the flow of our conversations/input in class.  So I made some and laminated them with my trusty $4 laminator from Aldi. YAY!


The cards have:

  • weather & seasons
  • calendar for the year with dates, and weeks starting with Monday
  • colors
  • North America map
  • world map

And I’m thinking that I might also add cards with a picture of my dog, another of my family, and even one with common foods and activities.

While I’ve used pictures in this manner for years, it’s always been in a slideshow.  However, I think having them ready to go will help keep the flow going and allow us to use even more TL throughout our day.

Thanks for reading!


Stick ‘em up: Encouragement with Bitmoji stickers

When Susann Shooman, a member of my Twitter PLN (@azucena77), shared the brilliant idea of making her own stickers using her Bitmoji avatar, I knew right away that I needed some too! (Who needs to work on projects with deadlines when you can make fun stuff instead?!)

I tweeted a pic of my first draft & it was a hit. Noah Geisel (@SenorG) wrote a blogpost about the idea here–again, thanks to Ms. Shooman for the original inspiration.

Want to make your own? Here are some logistics to make it easier:

  • 1″ Avery round stickers #5410 worked out to be a good size. At about $3 for 600 stickers, Amazon had the winning product. So much so that I accidentally bought 2!
  • Create your Bitmoji through the Bitmoji app. I made mine on my phone. Set your phone’s language to the language you want to use for your stickers and it makes the adjustments for you. Save each Bitmoji you want to use as a photo. As a lifelong Cubs fan, my Bitmoji self is sporting corresponding fan gear; I looked around for a Barca version for my TL stickers, but didn’t have any luck.
  • Use Avery’s online label design site to create your stickers by uploading the pictures you saved. Simply drag & drop the pics, then resize as needed. Save the file when you are finished, and you can print it as often as you wish.
  • A printing tip that stumped me for a bit: the directions on the Avery site tell you to use printer settings for “labels”, but I could not find such a setting. After fiddling around a bit, I found that setting the paper size to 4×6 worked like a charm.

I think my students will get a kick out of the personalized stickers as I use them to encourage them on their language journey. Now if I could only figure out how to make them scratch & sniff too…

First printed set hot off the presses

Puedo… puedo? (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 1)

One of my goals for this year is to build a sustainable, consistent, framework on which to build my lesson planning.  I had developed a pretty good groove for several years where there was a rhythm to the week–Mondays we almost always did extensive input work, Fridays were Internado or digital work depending on the class, and other days had their particular “flavor” (thanks for that idea, Sara-Elizabeth!).  It really went well for us and made life much less stressful.

But then I changed schools and schedules.  Now I have students all year, but on alternating A/B days.  As a result, some weeks I see students twice, others three times, but it has killed my previous system.  After testing several things out last year, I’m trying again to create that scaffolding to improve teaching/learning and streamline planning while still being sustainable on an alternating day schedule.

Laura Sexton got me thinking about what she calls “Puedos” as warmups and mini-assessments.  You can see what she shared here and here.  I dabbled with them last year, but the momentum in working with them was totally killed by a string of snow/ice storms that scrambled our plans all the way to spring break.

But this year?  This year, we are starting with them in the first unit and I’m ready to go!  I have prepared them for the first units of level 1 (here) and 2 (here) , based on our curriculum’s I can statements for each unit.  I love Laura’s idea of using FlipGrid to do the teacher checkin component of them.  Now that FlipGrid is free for everyone, it’s even better!

The final piece to the Puedo puzzle for me is a form created by Meredith White.  Simply put, it organizes our warmups, adds an accountability and communication component, and streamlines the start of class.  Meredith graciously agreed to let me share my version of the form here.  I’ll give a copy of the form to each student every five days–which is the span of two weeks for our school–and they will be set up for success on a schedule.  And that is something que puedo hacer 🙂


Exploremos el mundo: placas de la calle y direcciones (parte 1)

I’m developing curriculum this summer for Spanish 2, and am incorporating treasures that I picked up while in Spain last month.  One of our units is based around exploring World Heritage sites and developing travel skills.  I’m creating several guides to navigating cultural and practical aspects of life in Spain, especially cities and sites interesting to tourists.

In this activity I used photos I took of street signs and flyers to show students a culturally informed way to interpret & express addresses and phone numbers.  You can find the activity here:  Street signs, addresses, phone numbers  Hope you find it useful!

A few more books for the new year…

I’m continuing to uncover more treasures from our recent trip to Spain as I work through over 1,500 😳 photos I took while there.

One of my goals when shopping was to get a wide range of ideas for refreshing and growing my classroom library–especially for heritage learners and my advanced classes. I kept an eye out for books that seemed engaging and not too challenging, and found that the ages 9-12 section had a lot of possibilities.  You can see previous entries on the topic here and here.


First up, Chica Vampiro!


An excerpt from Chica Vampiro


There was a YouTubers section at one store. Not all of these titles are by YouTubers, but zoom in for some interesting titles.


These two series were prominently displayed in every bookstore we visited. The two on the left look suspenseful!