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)

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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