Gracias, Shutterfly! Using Memory Games & Puzzles to spark curiosity

I recently had an idea that Shutterfly made easy to try out: what if I used jigsaw puzzles to introduce art works? I used a picture of Guernica, had a free code, and gave it a spin. It came out great (even though Shutterfly sent me a warning that the image quality low)! Encouraged by this, I started to explore other options. Meninas puzzle? Yes, please!

I also discovered their memory games. Again, armed with a free code, I tried out one of these with pictures of family members as a gift for my primary school aged niece. They came out beautifully! So then back to art for class… I chose 12 iconic art pieces and made a memory game with them, and then made another one with characters from El Internado.

So while it’s fun to make these things, it’s even better using them in class. We started El Internado in class last week, and so we used the Internado memory game to remind students who was who. We can extend this as the series goes on by adding that students must say something about the characters that they draw in TL. Students also suggested playing Go Fish–so now I think we have a plan for next week!

I introduced Guernica before with a paper puzzle I made from cutting a print of the artwork apart. I asked students to put it back together in a team, but without telling them what it should look like. While this worked, and most importantly, got students really looking at the image and the elements of the work, I’m excited about the prospect of using an actual jigsaw puzzle with them to do this.

One of my goals this year is to intentionally inject more fun into what we do, all while continuing to push students’ growth and proficiency. Nothing spurs their growth more than being curious about what we are studying, and these two tools have helped to do just that.

Here’s a really cool thing: Shutterfly is running a promo right now where the memory games and puzzles are on deep discount. Use deals4u as your promo code to get the sale price (under $10 each). **I have no connection with Shutterfly other than being a superfan.**

Another really cool thing: I’ll be at Central States in March, and the conference hotel is just steps away from a world class art museum, The Art Institute of Chicago. It’s at this museum that I had the chance to study, explore, and develop art-based curriculum tailored to language classes many years ago. It’s an amazing place! I had planned to deliver an art integration workshop at the conference this year that would include a trip, but it didn’t work out. Nonetheless, I’m planning to go while I’m in Chicago. If you will be at the conference and want to join in, let me know ūüôā

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El Camino a Santiago: una lectura para presentar el tema

Walking at least part of El Camino a Santiago is a bucket list item for me, and every time I see the movie The Way (also on Netflix) the desire to walk it increases even more. ¬†In recent years I’ve been using the film as a centerpiece around a travel unit that hopefully taps into students’ curiosity of the world around them. ¬†It’s a smart, funny, touching film, and I love all the culture we can pull out of it. ¬†It also adds an intriguing twist to the travel unit as it gives us reason to consider¬†why people travel, not just the logistics of it.

That said, they need background to understand many of the nuances of the film and how walking El Camino is often more than just a long walk or a vacation.  This year we are using an infographic and reading activity to build that foundation and to spark some interest before watching the film.  If you would like the activity, you can get it here:  camino-a-santiago-infographic-mini-ipa

Thanks for reading!


FLANC 2016 and Beach FLANC 2017: Social Justice in the Intermediate Classroom

Welcome FLANC participants! Here are links and resources to help you include social justice issues in the classroom.

Special thanks to Carol Gaab at Fluency Matters  and Wayside Publishing for donating the door prizes!


General Resources:

Words and Actions (ACTFL publication)

Social Justice Playlist

Social Justice Through Film:

Cuerdas:  video, activities

El Regalo (The Present): video

Bear Story: video, my post on related resources

También La Lluvia (available on Amazon & Netflix [as Even the Rain])

Social Justice Through Reading:

Reading–strategies & what to do with text here¬†(especially pages 15-17) and here

Esperanza: buy book/teachers’ guide, resources on other blogs here, here, and here

La Travesia de Enrique–Sonia Nazario ¬†Interview with Maria Hinojosa here

Felipe Alou: buy book/TG, resources on other blogs, my post on related resources

Robo en la Noche:  buy book/TG, resources on other blogs

La Guerra Sucia:  buy book/TG, resources on other blogs; video below here

Carta Abierta a mi Nieto por Juan Gelman

Listening comprehension task from Martina Bex

Universal Declaration of Human Rights–which is the most important to you?

Social Justice Through Action:

Tejidos textbook  LOVE the section on Global Citizenship to lay a foundation on the topic of social justice

Micro lending project:  Kiva, kiva-webquest, Living on One (on Netflix), resources on other blogs here and here

School supply driveLaura Sexton

Pulsera project

El precioso gesto contra el racismo

Radio Ambulante

This American Life:  What Happened at Dos Erres?  and related Spielberg documentary

(not social justice–but interesting to NC Spanish teachers: ¬†Cris in the USA video blog)


Choose Your Own Adventure

In 2014 I had the delight of presenting at ACTFL’s fall conference with Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell and Laura Sexton on the topic of personalizing instruction and assignments for students. ¬†You can see our presentation and handouts from that session here.

Since then I changed schools to an innovative, forward thinking renaissance school where we are given the challenge, the latitude, and the support to rethink school and how we conduct our classes. ¬†It is very hard work, but the rewards of our efforts are starting to show. ¬†Last year was the first year for the school and a lot of effort was focused on just getting through each day. ¬†This year has been better in that regard, and it has allowed me the ability to update and edit some ideas and practices that got set aside in last year’s survival mode.

One of those things is Choose Your Own Adventure, a personalized, student voice & choice assignment that asks students to use their developing language skills outside of class. ¬†In my novice and intermediate classes I generally don’t assign homework–maybe twice a month–unless it’s by student request to have more time to work on something. ¬†The exception to this “no homework” guideline is Choose Your Own Adventure. Students select their task for the week, complete the requirements, document their work on a Google form, and then on Fridays they share what they did with a small group of classmates. ¬†They are strongly encouraged to invent their own adventures, and even more if it includes family and friends. ¬†We are starting this week, so I’ve updated the packet which you can find here. ¬†To save paper, all of this will be run through Google Classroom this year. ¬†Yay technology! ¬†Many thanks to Laura & Sara-Elizabeth for their ongoing editing and suggestions.

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 tel√©fonos 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. ¬†ūüôā

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?