Many Hands Make Light Work (Structures & Strategies for supporting student success and teacher sanity part 10)

One of my favorite professional activities is collaborating with thought leaders who challenge me and push me to grow.  Meredith White (@prhsspanish on Twitter) is one of those educators, and I’m grateful for her collaboration.  Today we would like to share some resources that are the fruit of some of our ongoing work that:

  1. provides structure for classroom management
  2. maintains a focus on proficiency-driven language learning
  3. is flexible and can be used in a variety of levels and units
  4. reduces teacher workload and decision fatigue

Over the last few years we have both been working on streamlining some of our repetitive planning and tasks in a way that maintains high quality and engagement, but also adds an element of consistency.  This has lead to the creation of a collection of documents that are easily adapted from one unit or level to the next, and merely require tweaking for the unit at hand.  Generally, these documents include:

  • a sheet to track daily warmups and performance task practice
  • a partner signup sheet per unit
  • vocab reference (in print or on Quizlet–my favorite!)
  • vocab organizer
  • roster-based interpersonal interview template
  • Puedos (find out more here and here)

Meredith has compiled most of these documents for her first unit of level 1  into one packet, available here.

Here’s my latest version of the Daily warmup sheet that includes a Zipgrade answer sheet.  This year I’ll be teaching only pre- AP and AP, so this provides us with an easy way to do some quick AP-test style practice without having to prep yet another document.  Meredith uses the same idea in a different format to help prep students for district assessments.

And here’s a set of partner sign ups using flags of the Spanish-speaking world.

Finally, here’s a look at my current set of Puedos looks like for level 1, unit 1.  In Meredith’s packet you will see the general template; this document is what I would give to students.  One tip that cam from my students is to copy a page of the partner sign ups onto the back of the Puedos.  It makes finding their assigned partners for the day so much easier!



Calling all soccer fans–options for our classroom library

Here are a few more options of intriguing books for our classroom library that I found while in Spain–this time with a soccer theme.  The most requested theme from my students was superheroes and sports, so here are a few possibilities.

Sara y las Goleadoras is a positive, upbeat series that has female protagonists working creatively to overcome obstacles.  The author, Laura Gallego, also wrote another favorite  book from our library, Todas Las Hadas del Reino.

Antoine Griezmann is a top notch French pro player (currently for Atlético Madrid, but rumored to be going to Barça). He has a series of YA books that look appealing and have positive messages.

Superjusticieros del Fútbol caught my eye because it blended both requests: superheroes AND soccer 🙂

Growing our little library

When I found out that I was returning to Spain again this summer, I started making a list of what I wanted to bring back.  Though almost anything is available via Amazon and other online retailers, there is something to be said for being able to shop in person–especially when it comes to books.  They also tend to be less expensive here, especially if you can find them in the second hand book store like ReRead which has locations throughout Spain.

I started intentionally building my FVR/SSR library in earnest a couple of years ago when I began teaching Heritage Spanish classes.  Though I had a bunch of books in Spanish, they were collected randomly over the years.  With initial guidance from Mike Peto’s blog I came to realize that I needed to add books that would specifically appeal to the readers in my class.  I’ve written about some of those choices here and here.

Below are some pics of some options I’m considering or have already added to my collection. Though I have flipped through them, I cannot guarantee that they are all appropriate for school. Some are for me first (El día que se perdió la cordura & El tiempo entre costuras), others are replacements/second copies (La chica invisible, Legendarios del fútbol, & Algo tan sencillo).  The Star Wars titles are comics and I can already foresee that we are going to have a line to sign up for those!  The Torreón, Cuentos de Animales, Spiderman & Quién Ha Sido books are collections of very short stories that I think will appeal to a segment of my students, especially those who are still developing their reading stamina.  There are some by YouTubers and Musers too that might be just the thing to connect with the kid who just hasn’t connected with anything else yet.

A special note about Blue Jeans:  the titles by this author have flown off my shelves!  They are highly popular with the high school girls in my class (and my house!), including some of the most reluctant readers.  They are THICK, in the 400+ pages range. There are multiple series:  Canciones para Paula, Algo Tan Sencillo, El Club de los Incomprendidos, and the newest, La Chica Invisible. Each series has several books, so if you find one that connects with your students–run with it!


One last little nugget of joy:  when I was checking out, one of the booksellers commented on the choices I’d made and asked if I was interested in some recommendations.  What a treasure–both the list and the conversation!  Her suggestions, written on the back of a receipt are below.  Happy reading!


5 Little Things That Spark End of Year Joy

Lots of time to think today during testing, so here are a few things that brought a smile to my face today:

  1. End of year slide show.  I take photos throughout the year, then let my Mac do the rest of the work in turning them into an animated slideshow.  I try to include every student at least once, and in the 4-5 minutes that the show runs we get to laugh, reminisce, and just take a breath before we dive into exams!
  2. Our coloring station.  Posted right by the door, we’ve worked on coloring in the few minutes after we close the lesson but before the bell rings.  Command strips allow the jar with the pencils in it to be stuck to the wall & stay tidy.  Sweet conversation starter at the end of the period as I say goodbye to them at the door every day.
  3. Dry erase page protectors–now empty! We use these several times a week to reduce copying and keep our realia neat 🙂
  4. Play-doh and 5. coloring sheets.  Fast finishers, have at it!  This has been a big hit, even with the seniors.  One group of scholars even built themselves a Play doh bowling alley complete with pins and a ball, and were keeping score as they played! Others colored and had a ball doing so–all while being quietly entertained without digital devices while the rest of the class finished their assessments.

What little things are bringing joy to you today?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Resources So Authentic that I can taste them!

While I would love to take all my students around the world, this is simply not possible.  However, I can bring the world to them!  We are in our final 10 days of classes for the year, but this is an activity that draws them in and gives us something interesting to talk about as we are trying to wind down the year and continue to build on the work we’ve done this year.

It starts with a quick trip to your most diverse local grocery store for a few two liters of drinks. I try to mix & match flavors that students are unlikely to have tasted, as well as a combination of carbonated/non-carbonated, juice, aguas frescas, etc. Manzanita and Inca Kola are two of my favorites, especially because Inca Kola is so polarizing–they love it or they hate it.  Either way, it’s easy to get them to talk about it, so we win!  A fun fact:  the only place in the US that has Inca Kola on tap/as a fountain drink is about 10 minutes from our school.  Connecting cultures, one sip at a time!

I also get a BUNCH of little cups like these (but I got mine at Costco because my classes are HUGE).

Setup is easy, but goes quicker with a few helpers.  I pour out just a quick taste of each kind of drink into about 20 cups each and lay them out with a label for the drink.  Students get a copy of the handout (on TPT here) and are sent off to taste test and record their reactions/thoughts/fill out the chart.  After we have finished that, they interview 5 classmates and complete part 4 of the process–summarizing the results of their survey.

All in all, this was a big hit!  At a point where motivation is starting to lag, this was a fun activity that also helped to reinforce our goals.  But don’t just take my word for it–see what participants said below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


BTW–Check for allergies before trying any of this!

I read Alou… and you should too!

IMG_4871.jpegSpring Break is here (and almost gone…) which means it’s time for family and R&R: relaxing and reading!  My reading list is long and will likely extend until summer, but top priority was a book that I’ve been working on for a while:  Alou (English edition; French edition here) by Felipe Alou and Peter Kerasotis.

I’m a lifelong Cubs fan in particular, and baseball fan in general. Readers of this blog may only know me as a Spanish teacher, but my first career was in athletic training/sports medicine.  When you are watching sports on tv and someone goes out onto the court or the field to assist an injured player–that was me for many years!  My first professional goal was to work in professional baseball, and my special area of research and practice was in non-surgical management of shoulder injuries in pitchers.  However, there was a ceiling that I couldn’t break as a female professional in that male-dominated field in that time and so I went on to a rewarding career in a different direction.  However, I still wonder “what if…? ” Those experiences give me extra appreciation for female trailblazers like Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs who are being recognized first for their qualifications rather than being knocked out of consideration by their gender.

Growing up near Chicago, my dad raised us as Cubs fans, though he was mostly a Yankees fan.  We also lived near a minor league team affiliated with the Expos, and went to games several times a season for years.  Now living in NC, we try to go to see the Cubs play every other year or so by catching them wherever we are in the summer.  Nothing beats a game at Wrigley though!

My baseball fandom connected with my teaching life a few years ago in the form of Carol Gaab’s comprehension based reader Felipe Alou.  It has become further connected as we have read the mini biography of Roberto Clemente in Kristy Placido’s Vidas Impactantes.  You can see what I’ve done so far with these books here:

Reading Alou was a great experience that melded my love of baseball with a deepening appreciation of Mr. Alou.  I loved learning more about life in the Dominican Republic and seeing world events through Mr. Alou’s eyes. Finding out that he and Roberto Clemente were friends while we were reading about Clemente in class was pretty cool too.  I have several ideas of things that I want to add to the next time that I teach the reader in class, but you’ll have to stay tuned for those!  My only regrets:  I wish there were a Spanish edition, and that there were a children’s edition too.

There’s one more link to this awesome story, a student named Juan.  Juan is a bright kid of Dominican heritage who loves baseball… and pretty much despised school.  He was bored and wasted no time acting up because he was bored.  One day his teacher asked if I had anything at all that might connect with him, and I gave her a copy of Carol’s book Felipe Alou in Spanish.  It did the trick!  He was so into the book that he had to be ordered to lunch, and came back and finished it the next day.  This was his first book in Spanish!  Later that semester I went recruiting for students to take AP, and Juan did–and scored well on the exam.  At the end of the course Juan and a couple other students decided that they still wanted more Spanish, so we tackled AP Spanish Lit–and he did well again!  Juan also went on to read a lengthy Spanish biographies of Roberto Clemente and Mariano Rivera–all great role models for a young man with tough decisions to make.  One of my hopes in life is that I will someday be able to tell Mr. Alou how his story has impacted young adults–young men in particular–and thank him for allowing me to be part of that magic.

I wrote a review on Goodreads here.  Stories like this deserve to be told, and we as readers need to support them.  I hope you’ll give this book a chance!

SCOLT19: Teacher Camp at the Beach 🏖

Welcome to SCOLT19!  If you were able to attend my sessions, thank you!  If you were unable to do so, I hope you find something here that may help you.

5 Tips to a 5:  Classroom Tested Strategies for the AP Spanish Language & Culture course

Session Handout:  5 steps to a 5 SCOLT handout

Podcast Links:

Free sample of Punto y Coma puntoycoma64


Free Response Review Process

Culture Log (make a copy to edit)

You might also be interested in this previous post:  Top 10 resources for AP

Make ’em Laugh, Make ’em Cry (FLANC Top 10)

Comprehensible resources that engage students’ hearts, minds, and souls

Managing the Madness:  Strategies for Classroom Management and Target Language Engagement (Hot Seat)