Classroom Tour Fall 2016

I’m a little late to the start of the year party, but thought I’d share some pics of my classroom this year. The “living room” idea was such a hit that it has now expanded to two areas.


Bar height table plus spinny stools–great workspace for fidgeters & students who want to stand to work.  A peel & stick decal gives the group a whiteboard.  The small plastic bin is the “holding cell” for teléfonos traviesos.


The round table in the middle of the room is awesome for small group work, a central place to pick up materials, and to be able to see the board well.


This pier of desks at the back of the room is helpful for teamwork and pair work too



For students who prefer traditional desks, we have these…


“Living Room” #2–thanks to Ikea, Craigslist, & Target. The lid comes off the gray footstool to provide additional storage. Mini whiteboard decals are on the wall in the background so that groups have a place to record their thoughts.


“Living Room” #1–again thanks to Ikea, Target & Craigslist. I covered the top of the table with whiteboard peel & stick material, so it is a whiteboard table for this group.


Front of the room with word wall, IKEA kitchen cart as a projection/work station for me. Our growing classroom library is on the far right, including this spinning literature rack that is great for magazines


Our home base station–scissors, markers, spare notebooks, lotion, sanitizer, and texts. Our goals will be up here, but right now it is where I parked the names of people who have volunteered to do one of our classroom jobs.


Gotta Catch Them All!

My son & his friends–and many of our students– were totally caught up in the Pokemon Go! craze this summer. I knew something was up when suddenly “taking the dog for a walk” in the heat of the US South became a daily event.

We have just completed day 5 of Spanish 1 and we are currently working on greetings & introductions after having talked about proficiency for a couple of days. I’m leveraging Pokemon to give students an audience and to help build relationships with key staff members. Our school’s motto is “Every Student College Ready” and the idea of “catching” all students is prevalent throughout our work.

Each student received a sheet with pictures of 8 staff members who agreed to participate in this challenge with their “Pokemon identities”–the most elusive Pokemon in the world. Now the students have a week to “catch them all” by finding each staff member at lunch or before/after school and engaging them in a basic conversation in Spanish.

Some of our participating staff members speak Spanish comfortably, while others do not. Students will take on the role of teaching those who do not how to say what they need to say.

Student engagement went UP when they realized they were actually going to have this conversation. It’s my hope that this will increase visibility for the work that we do in WL and also that it will open doors to positive relationships with our admin & intervention staff.

Train on friends!

Life after El Internado: What to watch next

Today marks one of the first days this summer where I haven’t had family in town or been traveling–ahhh, summertime!  One of my goals for this summer is to devour another tv series in Spanish in order to give my listening skills a boost and just to enjoy the story.  Having lived with an exchange student from Spain this past year, I recognized how much my vocabulary and comprehension improved as a result of the tv shows I have watched over the last couple of years.  Interestingly, our student hadn’t seen several of them and so we watched some together.  She also introduced us to some of her favorite shows in English that we hadn’t seen.  🙂

While we actually watch very little TV in our house, we have found several series that we enjoy.  If you are looking for a new series, here is a brief rundown of some shows to consider: (I’ve finished the series marked with *)

  • *Gran Hotel (Netflix): kind of like Downton Abbey with a murder mystery thrown in. Lots of actors from Internado & other shows on this list.  Could be used in some classes; show has ended.  Find episode guides for class by Mike Peto here.
  • *Sin Identidad (atresplayer):  not for class, but compelling plot around deceitful identity theft in Franco’s regime and how that plays out in modern times.  Human trafficking is a theme woven throughout the show.  Both primary actors are also in Gran Hotel. Show has ended.
  • Velvet (Netflix):  probably not for class, but excellent and fascinating show that is kind of like Mad Men of fashion in Spain.  Several actors from Internado & Gran Hotel star in this show, and it is still running.  I still have a season to go on this one.
  • *El Tiempo Entre Costuras (Netflix):  not for class use.  Set in the early days of the Spanish Civil War, most of the action is set in Morocco.
  • the show I started today:  El Ministerio del Tiempo (DVD’s from Amazon, or stream it here)  Intriguing premise of fantasy/time travel that aims to prevent people from changing the outcomes of history. I’ve already seen some old “friends” from other shows, and I wish this had English subtitles so that my husband could watch it with me easily.  This show is still in active production, and I had high hopes for being able to use it–or at least clips–with an advanced class due to its rich cultural & historical background.  The first 44 minutes of the first episode were all good… and then there had to be a naked woman to ruin it for consideration at school.  Nonetheless, I’m excited for episode 2.  The premise for the show seems similar to the new show coming this fall called Timeless.  The creator of EMdT reacted to that claim here.

What are you watching this summer?

Carolina in my mind…

Still alive, y’all.  Hope to be more active blogging over the summer, and really hope to see you at Camp Musicuentos along with Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell and Laura Sexton!  This is fulfillment of a dream that Laura & I cooked up a few years ago–little did we know that Sara-Elizabeth had an even more awesome plan.

More info about Camp Musicuentos here: publicity flyer

Before Camp Musicuentos, though, I’ll be on an epic trip to TELL Austin.  Until we see each other again, I’ll be gone with Carolina In My Mind…

In the Time of the Butterflies, part 1

This week we’ve been working on a mini-unit as a lead in to reading Felipe Alou from TPRS Publishing–one of my favorites from their collection.  Knowing that my students would need a fair amount of background knowledge to appreciate the setting, I decided to do some front loading through the film In the Time of the Butterflies starring Salma Hayek, Edward James Olmos, and Marc Anthony.  The film is in English–something I generally try to avoid–but it’s captivating enough that it pulls students in.  I’m using the unit in Spanish 2 and I have some very reluctant students in that group who have been difficult to motivate.  It’s my hope that this mini unit will engage them enough to be a stepping stone toward more challenging tasks while exposing them to culture and history that they might otherwise dismiss.  And so far… so good.

Here’s the outline of the mini-unit (90 minute blocks):

Day 1:  Students work on cultural background log (DR Culture log) after completing assessment from previous unit  (and while waiting for others to finish)

Day 2:

Day 3:

  • This Kahoot (in Spanish)
  • Watch ~ 45 minutes of film (stop when Minerva is removed from her jail cell)

Day 4:

  • Quizlet/Quizlet Live with this vocabulary
  • Watch rest of film
  • This Quizizz
  • Comprehensified background information reading (Las hermanas mirabal) on the Mirabal family (in Spanish)
    • Read, working together
    • Make timeline of key events in Spanish
    • Comprehension check questions (individually)
  • Happy weekend!

Many of the students have really enjoyed the film so far, and were asking for it to continue when I stopped it at the cliff hangers.  They loved recognizing Marc Anthony from Música Miércoles earlier in the year, and the issues of racism, discrimination, and having a voice in society have been resonating with them.  Some of the background information will be rolled in to assessments more directly dealing with Felipe Alou.  I’ll add in another reading assessment based on an infographic about the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, which has been designated to coincide with the anniversary of the Mariposa’s assassination.

All in all, the “spending” of my English minutes on this film has been worth it with this group of students… and that has reminded me again that the “best practice” is the one that sparks the interests of the students.  We’ll kick our Spanish minutes back up next week, but for these students in this class this week… this has been a good fit.

Mis Dos Mundos: El Cole

My family is currently hosting our fourth exchange student, and for the first time our student is from a Spanish speaking country.  Our previous students have been from France and Ukraine, and have added a dynamic to our family that is immeasurable.  From a WL teacher’s standpoint, having a resident language and cultural expert for the language I teach at my dinner table each night has been a true delight.  She only has about two more months with us before she returns to Spain, and in that time I’m working on a series of resources called “Mis Dos Mundos”, where I will interview Olatz on common topics related to class and create comprehensible resources for students based on them.  I like the idea that I’ll be drawing a direct connection with an authentic source, and also that we will have inherent comparison and contrast of the two worlds. Plus, it will be fun!  We will be hearing from a teen who is a lot like them… and who brings a different perspective.

Our first installment is about comparing and contrasting Olatz’ school in País Vasco and her school in the US.  The first document is the reading that we created from the interview; the second is a reading performance assessment built on the ACTFL IPA model/rubric.  I hope that they are helpful and interesting to you.

  1.  Olatz school description 
  2.   Olatz school IPA

What topics would you like to see us address?

Camp Musicuentos

I LOVE SUMMER. No alarm clocks. Lots of time to play, explore, and go on adventures with our extended family. And now this: Camp Musicuentos!

I’m thrilled to announce that Sara Elizabeth Cottrell has decided to host Camp Musicuentos in my part of the world, and I’ll be assisting along with Laura Sexton (@SraSpanglish).  Registration is open and filling fast!  Click here for more information.