Puedo…puedo? Part 2

Continuing today with the ongoing series of posts of structures I use in my classes to support student learning and teacher sanity–this time with a follow up.  You can see more of this series here, here, here, here, and here.)

The first post in this series introduced the idea of merging Puedos a la Sra. Spanglish with a warm up tracker from Meredith White.  With Meredith’s permission, I played around with the formatting and layout of the sheet to make it even more versatile. Find the handout here. One of the things that caught my eye on her original document was the reflection section that students complete at the end of the week.

Since my classes are on an A/B schedule, it takes us two weeks to use a whole sheet–even more if you have a hurricane like we did.  As a result, I just got the first round of reflections from this year’s level 2 students and they are powerful.  I asked them to respond to our standard feedback prompts:

  • What’s going well for you in this class?
  • What would make it even better?
  • What can I do to support you?

Their honesty and thoughtfulness is impressive.  Here’s a sampling:


Such helpful feedback for me.  Slower EdPuzzles?  Check.  We will work on listening strategies, as well as the reminder that you can listen to EdPuzzle segments as much as you need.


Yay!  How can I help?  Aww, thanks.


I’m swooning over “talk & learn the language”.  Another comment on EdPuzzle speed reinforces that we need to work on strategies… and that this particular video may have pushed the limits of their current skills.


More encouragement that we are on the right track.  And that they miss Señor Wooly.


Some just get straight to the mero mero.


And this student’s response breaks my heart.  I’m so honored that she feels comfortable sharing the group work comment with me.  And here’s the thing:  I didn’t know.  But this information has already shaped my planning for we will do in the next class to help plug her in.

Reading through their comments has been so helpful for me.  The vast majority have reported that they are on track.  Several reached out for help, and there were a few that really caught my eye as needing some TLC.

I commented on each paper, returning the feedback favor, and have planned a few things to respond to their requests.

  1. I used a Remind app message to send a link to our Quizlet vocab set as a response to the multiple requests for extra vocab support.
  2. We’ll work on some listening strategies and I’ll choose a video with a little slower speed for next week.
  3. Señor Wooly was already in my plans, but I’ll present it as an “audience request” 😂
  4. But most important of all:  I’ll be working extra hard to connect with the talented, hard working girl who shared that she doesn’t feel connected to her class.  I’m so glad I asked, and so grateful that she shared.

Re: Hurricane Florence… My immediate community is in pretty good shape, but we are hosting evacuation shelters for people from the coast who are not.  Our coast got hit, and HARD.  Here are two ways to help groups that are doing amazing work on the ground here and at the coast:

  • World Central Kitchen is feeding and delivering hot, delicious meals to thousands of people every day–evacuees, first responders, and families who have run out of access to food.  This organization was founded by Spanish native Chef José Andrés and has an amazing model for disaster recovery.  They are collaborating with FEMA and the American Red Cross and are getting the job done.  I volunteered with them over the weekend, and their program is impressive.
  • The American Red Cross has put out a special call for blood donations in addition to monetary donations.  You do not need to be local to NC to help this way.

It Takes Two: Partner Pairing Made Easy (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 6)

Here are two simple, but effective strategies to make partner pairing go soothly & without stress.  My classes average 32+, even in AP, so effective use of partners is critical to student success.

#1:  PikMe.  This tech tool is really helpful for groups of 2+.  This free app is a bit of a pain to set up, but the payoffs are worth it.  In its simplest form, enter the names from your rosters into the classes you create in the app.


This is the opening screen with my classes I created.


A glimpse of a class list.  You can add photos to the roster.


The magic happens when you click “student groups”


This is a dual spinning wheel. Select the group size & it will automatically separate students into the correct number of groups.  Or select the number of groups & it will divide the students up based on that.

Once you have set your parameters, click create.  Your student groups will appear on your phone, ready to go.   You can rearrange students from the list the app creates by simply dragging and dropping names to different spots on the list. Notice too that you can send the list to another location (laptop, etc.) with the icon in the upper right corner.

As I mentioned, setting up the rosters is tedious.  But once that step is done, setting up randomized groups takes about 15 seconds–and that is a big help!

#2: Partner Pages (the low tech option).  This tool is really helpful for groups of 2.  These are a variation of a “partner clock” where students sign up classmates to be their partners for various activities that we will do throughout a unit.    The twist:  instead of signing up for a time slot on a clock, they sign up to be partners for vocabulary or cultural concepts.

For example, right now we are working on a unit based around entertainment, especially music, film, and tv.  Here is the sign up sheet that we used today:

entertainment partner sign up.001

Each of the pictures is a vocab term/target that we are using in the unit.  I make a new sheet for each unit and just adjust the photos & terms to that unit.  For example, I have a couple that have the flags from Spanish speaking countries, one on Las Meninas, and another on preferred activities.  The only caveat: finding concrete things that can be illustrated clearly.  Cantar?  easy!  Sin embargo?  Nope.  Here’s a copy of the sheet shown above: entertainment partner sign up

Here’s the logistics of rolling it out in class:

  1.  Each student has a sheet
  2. They need to write their names at the top.
  3. Model the process on the board.  I project the image so that they can see exactly what I want them to do.
  4. They need to find 10 people to be their partners, one at a time.
  5. This is super important:  Student A & Student B agree to be partners.  Student A writes Student B’s name on Student A’s paper.   Student B writes Student A’s name on Student B’s paper.  In other words, students need to make sure to write down the OTHER student’s name on their papers in the boxes provided.
  6. I don’t allow students to repeat partners at this stage.
  7. After about 5 minutes of signing up partners (lots of ¿Cómo te llamas practice going on!), I send them back to their seats even if they aren’t finished.
  8. We then ask for a show of hands for who has gaps to fill for each picture.  I pair them up, trying to avoid duplication.  There are times where we will not be able to avoid duplicating at this stage, and it’s ok.
  9. If there is an odd number of students or if there is ONE student without a partner for a given pic, that student is the Wild Card.  This means that this student is your sub for that pairing when someone else’s partner is absent or s/he gets to pick another group to add on to make a group of 3.
  10. Have students take a photo of their completed sheet so that they can recreate the pairings if they lose their sheets.

Thoughts on implementation:

  • You have 10 pairs ready to go.  You can do a lot of paired activities in a short amount of time without repeating partners.
  • Students have choice in this process.  They pick their partners.
  • You can strategically select pairs that you want to use… and those that you want to avoid. ;|
  • It makes a challenging component of classroom management easier.  I include the designated partner in the directions I give students:  “Take out your reading activity.  Find your __ partner.  Sit together to complete __” and then I’m free to assist and support instead of matching up reluctantly social students and running the risk of needing to mediate “I don’t want to work with her!”

What strategies have been helpful to you for student grouping?  Please share in the comments!



Music for Monday: The Rock You Like a Hurricane edition

We dodged a bullet.

Living in NC, the last week or so has been dominated by Hurricane Florence and we’ve been out of school since Wednesday.  We are fine in la Casa de la Profa.  My family at the coast is also fine, but they haven’t had power for several days and probably won’t for a while.  A generator is getting them through the essentials and though we would like to help, the roads between us and them are not passable at this time.  Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen is doing great work in the parts of the region that have been most affected by the effects of the hurricane by feeding first responders, shelter residents, and anyone else who needs a solid hot meal.  I volunteered with them yesterday and can attest to their awesomeness.  Check them out here, and if you are so moved, they are accepting donations.

Now, on to the music.

Being home and hunkered down for a few days has given me a chance to work on some musical curricular projects that have been on my mind for my level 2 class, and I’m sharing three of them here today.

Natalia deLaat shared a document to guide French students through sharing their opinions about a song.  She generously shared it with me and with her permission, I converted it to Spanish.  Find it here.

Have you heard of Operación Triunfo? It’s a show in Spain that is similar to The Voice or American Idol in the US.  It is back, and kicks off its new season on Wednesday.  This is the show that launched the careers of David Bisbal and David Bustamante, among others.  The winner of the show this year not only gets a recording contract, but also will be Spain’s entry into this year’s Eurovision competition.  This activity pack contains readings and activities about both OT and Eurovision, and includes a Guess Who? style game as well as a Señora Chase-inspired simplified interpretive task.  Find it here:  Operacion Triunfo Eurovision

Finally, thanks to the amazing Neil Jones, there is an activity pack based on La Voz Kids Colombia. It also has a couple comprehensified readings as well as an EdPuzzle and a conversation starter. Find it here:  La Voz Kids Colombia

Though I teach level 2, I also teach AP.  Over the summer I worked with some other teachers to create tasks for level 2 that directly support AP in the future.  One of this is to work with cultural comparisons, and this is what we will do to wrap up this music mini unit. Students will use what they have studied about music shows in Spanish-speaking countries and compare it to similar shows in their home cultures in an AP-style format.  I can’t wait to see what they create!


Let’s Give ’em Something to TALK About (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 5)

One of the greatest struggles with each incoming AP group is to get them to TALK… out loud… and in Spanish.  I’ve previously written about a couple of strategies to help, and today I’d like to share two more that I’ve used already this year.  Both tools are versatile enough to be used in pre-AP classes as well.

The first:  Kristy Placido’s Circumlocution Game.  This game is a student favorite, and she has expansion packs available as well.  We use it frequently when we have a few minutes to fill, but also use it as a standalone activity to help develop their confidence and fluidity.

The second is the TALK protocol.  I learned about it from my #langchat colleague Natalia deLaat, and you can find her materials here.  Essentially, it’s a student-driven conversation with some scaffolding to support them.  Natalia’s materials include an assessment piece.  Though I’ve used it that way, I generally use it as time for students to talk and for me to be a fly on the wall.  This is especially true in the upper level classes where a teacher’s presence–even though I’m not grading them–can be intimidating.

When we are setting up the activity, I walk them through the TALK acronym on Natalia’s materials.  Then we look at the topic for the day and I have them prepare questions and topics that they could include.  For lower level students this is a few minutes; for upper level students this is longer or even overnight for homework.  Then I divide them into groups of about 4-6 students and we spread out to chat.  Here are a couple of examples of prompts used in class:

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The SOY YO is for a level 1 or level 2 class, while the LIBRO slide is part of the AP summer reading followup (more on that to come).

One of the things I appreciate about most about using the TALK protocol is that it is highly engaging, but low preparation.  I will often use it in all my classes on the same day to streamline planning and set up, and it always generates positive feedback from students.  They comment on how they are able to maintain a TL conversation and how good that feels. I love seeing them be successful and gaining confidence to use the skills we have been developing.


Weekend Chat Update (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 4)

This year I am teaching the bookends:  levels 1 & 2… and AP.  One teacher sanity saving strategy for teaching six classes with three preps is to use the same activities across levels, adapting for the class you’re in.

Weekend chat is one of those activities. Though I have some high flyers in AP (in all classes, really) even they can benefit from scaffolded support to help them grow.  Often times AP Weekend Chat is in partners/small groups, while the lower level courses tend to be large group oriented.

Here’s a supporting document that I created to help all levels. Each student gets a copy on Monday or Tuesday (we are on an A/B schedule) to use as we have our weekend chat, then I collect them and save them for the next week.  Hope you find it helpful!

You can find editions adjusted for quarantine-friendly activities here.

Updated 9/2020: Get the Spanish edition with preterit tense here:  Weekend chat placemat

Update 9/8/2018:  A future tense version of the Spanish edition (Iré…):  Weekend chat placemat Spanish Future

Updated 9/2020 Update 9/19/2018:  An immediate future version of the Spanish edition (Voy a…)

And thanks to Lindsay Smythe Doucet, here’s a French version:  Weekend chat placemat FRENCH

Update 11/23/2018:  Thanks to Wendy Farabaugh for contributing an alternative past tense French version: Weekend chat placemat past tense FRENCH

German editions past & immediate future (I’m going to…) are here! Weekend chat placemat German

Interested in helping produce versions in other languages?  Message me! It’s fast & easy–just fill in translations in a spreadsheet & I’ll take care of the rest.