We Built This City

As we begin talking about communities in our level 1 class, I’ve dusted off and updated an activity that I used a while ago, but had forgotten about–an interpretive activity that directs students to draw a map of a fictional city.  Adapted from a retired colleague who was way ahead of his time (Bob Hall from Colorado, I thank you for your generosity that continues today!), I’ve updated it for modern times.

In this activity, students receive a set of instructions in Spanish to draw a map of San Jacinto, a fictional city.  While this may seem simple at face value, it is deceivingly complex.  They need to be able to read carefully, use spatial skills (uf!  this is a challenge!), and work collaboratively with their partners, in addition developing their language skills.  I love that it engages them and challenges them, as well as that it allows me to be a facilitator rather than up front for the period.

Here’s a copy of the activity if you would like to try it. Let me know how it goes!San Jacinto city drawing activity


Musical March Madness–AP edition, part 1

This morning has brought a welcome dose of quiet after a few particularly hectic weeks. Some plans got cancelled for this weekend, everyone is still asleep, and I’m finally able to think through & share a unit I’m working on that I think will appeal to others–an upper level version of Musical March Madness.

Though I’ve worked with versions of MMM for several years–and live in basketball country–it’s also crunch time for AP & IB classes as we prepare for our final exams.  As a result, MMM has been something that I primarily did in lower levels.  However, this year I finally connected some ideas that will make it all work AND give us a lighter topic to discuss. Our last topic was free will, the film Mar Adentro, and assisted suicide–powerful topics, but also heavy!

The primary theme for this unit is Beauty & Aesthetics with the sub theme of Music.  However, we also touch on gender, identity, multiculturalism, science & tech (use of social media & intellectual property), and advertising & marketing.

In this post, I’ll share the resources that are key players in this unit.  I’ll do a followup post soon elaborating on the student-centered pieces.

As an overview, students will:

  • listen to a podcast & complete a listening guide
  • read several pieces from Punto y Coma magazine related to music, with a special focus on Rosalía
  • discuss views and opinions about music in their home cultures and in Spanish-speaking countries
  • complete an interpretive reading assessment
  • create and present a brief presentation about a genre of music in Spanish-speaking cultures
  • campaign to advance their entry in the March Madness bracket
  • complete a choice writing assignment

Resources for the above:

The first piece is the Paco de Lucía podcast from Spanishpodcast.net with the accompanying listening guide that I created.  Find it on TPT here.

Next is the incredible magazine Punto y Coma.  Every issue of this magazine is inspiring, engaging, teaches me something I didn’t know, and has become one of my primary sources for level-appropriate materials for AP/IB.  The cover story of issue #75 is about Rosalía, and also has a piece about cultural appropriation.  Issue #73 has a good article about Música Latina. Issue #74 has a mini debate structured over what is more important in a song–the lyrics or the music?  In addition to the print magazine, many of the articles have comprehension and vocabulary exercises already included.  There are extensive audio selections in multiple accents to support the text as well.

The article about Rosalía is the one that I found the most intriguing for this unit because she is an on trend rising star, young, and represents a multilayered identity that will create good discussion.  Find out more about her here and here.

Before reading the article, we had a series of brief discussions about music and style in a speed-dating format.  We also worked with Quizlet & Gimkit on vocabulary for the article.  After reading the article, students completed an ACTFL-inspired interpretive task.  The discussion questions are available here.

The unifying piece of the unit planning puzzle came from a comment by Katie Strand Carroll in an AP group on Facebook.  She shared that students had prepared slides on various genres of music in the Spanish-speaking world.  Students presented their slides and then also selected songs as entrants into the bracket.  Then they had to argue why their particular song should advance–this was the clincher for me!  We are working on developing their argumentative skills for the essay portion of the exam and this gives us a fun way to practice those skills with less stress and pressure.  You can see the slide show I adapted from Katie here.  It includes directions for students and genres to choose.   In keeping with the March Madness theme, students drew a number out of a cup to see which draft pick they would get, then I called the numbers in order for them to select the genre that they wanted.

In an example of working smarter, not harder, I’m going to adapt a template for describing a song that  I originally got from Natalia De Laat.  I used it in level 2, but will use it again in AP because while for level 2 it’s a lifeline to building a cohesive description, for AP it’s a springboard to a more complex task of defending their song’s merits for advancement.  You can find the document here.

Finally, WriteAbout.com is one of my favorite sources for finding thought-provoking writing & discussion prompts which are often paired with beautiful photography.  Here are a few that I’m adapting for use in class for this unit; I’ll offer all three as options and ask students to respond to their favorite.

Finally, if you have made it to the end of this long post and this kind of work intrigues you, I encourage you to check out the Spanish Teacher Success Academy conference next week.  It’s amazing, top notch professional development from the comfort and convenience of your home.  I’m presenting on March 11, and it’s not too late to sign up!

STSA19 March 11 Session Bethanie Drew 1024x512.png

Free resource: reader guide for 10 Things You Didn’t Know about Selena

The most recent edition of El Sol magazine from Mary Glasgow/Scholastic has an article about Selena that is a great intro into her life.  Our final unit for level 2 is biographies of world changers, so this will be a perfect addition to the content we already have.  Here’s a reader’s guide/student handout I created to accompany the article: selena activities scholastic el sol january february 2019 

If you like what you see here, consider checking out my TPT store. 🙂

Puedo…puedo? Part 3 (Structures and Strategies for supporting student success and teacher sanity part 9)

See previous (and more detailed) descriptions of this concept here and here.

I’m continuing to fine tune one of the cornerstones to classroom management: our opening routine.  As described in earlier posts (see links above), we use a handout to guide our opening of class procedures and to get feedback from students.  Dashboard slides are key to having students being self-starters and allowing me to have a few moments to address the needs that pop up as well as build relationships with students.

Today’s update keeps the previous elements but adds two things:  a spot for students to record their upcoming assignments and the questions we use for reflection.  You can find a copy of it here:daily warmup sheet with homework line

New Year, Recycled Plan

We go back to classes on Thursday, and due to a professional development absence in December, I will see students for the first time in over two weeks. I miss them!!

That said, I am trying to maximize my time off and use high quality materials that are already set to go when we return.  We are on an alternating day calendar, so we will go back with one group of students Thursday and the other group on Friday… and then will have a weekend off.  Therefore, we are going to ease back into the year with some modified weekend chat for the novice classes and AP, and also continue our unit on holidays for AP.

For our vacation update, I found sweet inspiration at Anne Marie Chase’s blog.  I’m going to use “Muévete si” with AP and a modified version of her “guess who” activity for the novices.  Since we live in the south (where today’s high was in the 70’s), I made a different version that asks questions that involve less snow 😉  You can find a copy of the document here: Vacation back to school guess who weekend update–print two to a page to reduce the number of copies that you need 🙂

In AP we are continuing a unit on holidays, and will start with 12 Uvas–complete with a video of my family eating the uvas with one of our Spanish daughters and her family in Spain last night and a re-enactment in class.  We’ll use the Pre-uvas article from VeinteMundos.com and also the deseos activities available here. We will also look at some selections from social media about the event (see slides below).

Welcome back, everyone!

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22 Otra Vez: 1 video, 3 leveled plans

In an example of working smarter, not harder, all my classes–levels 1-AP– are working with the Spanish lottery commercials 22 Otra Vez & Justino this week.  These short films are engaging and thought-provoking, and versatile enough to be intriguing and accessible to novices as well as upper intermediate students.

If you are planning to use these videos, don’t miss the incredible materials created by Kara Jacobs (start here).  Her materials have created most of the activities for my plans this week.

I made some adaptations specific to AP that I’ll share below.  While the novice classes  and lower intermediates benefit greatly from the picture talk activities that Kara created, the AP students are on a different level.  For me, the videos serve as a springboard for conversation, especially with an eye to cultural comparison and holidays in general.  The cultural background of my students is diverse, and while these commercials connect to a “Christmas” lottery, I want the focus of our conversations to be the holidays and traditions we celebrate in our communities, not just Christmas.  We will continue this study after winter break with things like New Years’ traditions, gift giving, feast days, etc.

Here are today’s discussion questions:

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And here is a quick reading about the lottery: La loteria reading practice AP


Daily Dashboard (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 8)

While using a bellringer/do now/warm up has been around for a while, they had long been a struggle for me.  This year I am working very hard to be consistent while still maintaining novelty, and the daily dashboard has been very helpful for me and for my students. One of the inspirations for this was Laura at PBLintheTL–see her version here.

What’s a dashboard?  For me, it’s having consistent elements on a slide that is posted as students come in that sets the class up for success.  Since I meet students at the door every day, every period, I need a way to communicate quickly and effectively what they should do independently to start class.

Here’s a sample slide for level 2:

E2 travel.001

While the content will vary according to our needs, these things are consistent:

  • the date
  • instructions for digital devices
  • start here–first 1-3 steps for class
  • our goal (which is usually more specific than this one, but this was on assessment day)
  • photo/visual support for steps
  • assignment/reminders for the day
  • usually–a countdown timer imported from YouTube to keep us on pace

Some benefits:

  • Class starts in an organized fashion without me having to direct it
  • I get a few minutes to deal with things that pop up
  • No excuses for “I didn’t know what the assignment was”–because it’s announced at the beginning of class
  • A message that class starts when you enter
  • It coordinates beautifully with the use of the Puedos warmup sheet as described here.
  • VISUAL directions for what to do with digital devices has dramatically cut down on the interactions needed to address off-task use
    • One tip:  if we are going to use a site like Gimkit, Quizizz, etc. early in class, then one of their warmup steps will be to set their devices to the site, put them screen down, and then wait for the code.  Then, when it’s time to play, I announce the code and we are off to the races!  It has been a big help in decreasing wasted time getting everyone into the game, especially when we have to boot up laptops.


How to make a dashboard:

It’s a slide with a consistent layout & elements.  That’s it.  Mine is made in Keynote, but Google Slides and PowerPoint will work just fine too.  The colored shapes help to focus attention and keep my instructions short.  They are simply color-filled shapes pushed to the back with text boxes on top.

When I work with new teachers–especially on classroom management–one of my key questions is “what do you want your start of class to look like?”  We visualize it, discuss it, and then build a plan to work toward making it happen.  Because classroom management is much, much more than discipline, the dashboard can be an important tool in a teacher’s tool chest to bringing this vision into reality.

Do you dashboard?  Please share examples in the comments!