Word Salad Lesson Review

I normally post about my Spanish classes but I ended my college Psychology class on Friday with an activity that I will definitely be using again. I called it Word Salad and added it to the agenda a mere 10 minutes before school started. Because I’m just that kind of planner.

What really happened was I looked at the material for the day and knew we would work our way through it with about 20 minutes so spare. I decided to do some kind of lesson wrap up where my students needed to review the material and demonstrate their understanding. I made several sheets of paper that included key words and phrases from our lesson.

At the end of class, I divided the class into two teams. Each team had a device to take pictures (my IPad and my phone) and two whiteboards. Then they had 10 minutes to create as many sentences as they could about the material we discussed today. During the activity, I walked around and listened to their conversations. It was great because there was a lot of debating over the meanings of certain terms. I really felt they were thinking about the lesson and thinking about what they could say about it.

After 10 minutes we flipped through the pictures as a class, reviewed the sentences and discussed whether or not they were correct. It gave a great opportunity for review.

I’m already thinking of new ways to incorporate this into the Spanish classroom for from comprehensible input and as a low prep activity to get a lot of repetitions. It was fun, quick and a great review.


Inspiring Pages with Adobe Spark

I’ve always thought it was important for teacher’s to have a web presence in a society that is saturated with technology. It always made sense to me that if I can order a pizza on my computer, my students and parents should be able to find out of their education on a computer.

Now there are great learning management systems like Google Classroom, Canvas and Schoology that let teachers share and receive information immediately with students. Everything is just a click away. Miss class? “Check Google Classroom” How can I turn this in to you? “Check Google Classroom”. There are even parent/”shadow” options on these so parents can see every educational transaction as it’s happening too. Plus almost every district has online grade books where parents can check grades and contact teachers through email.

I had a pretty good website. It didn’t require a lot of updating throughout the year, gave an extensive amount of information and looked not too shabby. But it wasn’t a high traffic area. Not often visited by anyone. Why was that? I deduced that it generally was not needed. My lesson plans were easy to find elsewhere. People who wanted to contact me already knew how to do that. Anyone that had questions about policies and procedures would rather just email and ask than click and read.

I maintain, however, that it is important for a teacher to have a web presence.  So I went small-scale and created a one page “hello” website about my Spanish class. Gives info, biography and has links to syllabi but otherwise it’s just some showcase photos.

I love Adobe Spark. Like, love it. It’s incredibly easy to put together a beautiful “web” presentation. I’ve used it only once before with my students but would really like to make the effort to use it more often. Just have to find the right inspiration.

I recommend you play around with Adobe Spark and think about how you can incorporate it into your world. It took me about 1 1/2 to create my new web presence with Adobe Spark and I think it’ll do the trick for a 2017 tech-saavy educational world.

Mrs. Huff's Spanish


Also check out my TPT store between June 28-Jul 1 2017 for a 20% off everything sale. I’m working on adding new resources and welcome feedback and suggestions.

My Store

Redesigned Syllabus for 2017-2018

Each year I tinker and improve the class syllabus I give to my Spanish students. I’ve gone extremely detailed and very visual. This year I’ve really focused on: What is the information I need to make sure my students and parents know?

During the last school year I made a change to standards based grading on a 4 point scale. I communicated expectations and explained that to everyone last year but felt that same information was worth clarifying in this year’s syllabus as well.

This year’s version of my syllabus was created on Canva. I like the way that it looks and the practicality of being able to download it as a PDF. Makes it easy to send and easy to print if need be. It’s not as flashy or interactive as my Thinglink syllabus of 2015 but I’m ok with that. After the first day, I’m quite certain no one went back to those Thinglink links anyway.

The key to creating any syllabus is being very clear about your course and your expectations. Does anyone else love redesigning syllabi as much as me?




Comprehension with Emojis

I occasionally give students comprehension assessment options and one of the options is to summarize the passages using emojis. Emojis are great in the language learning classroom because it forces the student to infer meaning through drawings and pictures rather than just writing in English.

Today we continued reading Chapter 2 of Frida Kahlo by Kristy Placido. I wanted an activity where the students worked without me to read and comprehend, yet I still wanted to check and see how they were doing. And it was 8:11 in the morning and I hadn’t thought of anything.

Quickly I revisited my objective: What was it that I wanted? I wanted the students to read Chapter 2 and demonstrate that they comprehended key information. They read Chapter 2 silently and then I read it out loud to them.

As their comprehension exercise, they created a Google Doc with three columns; in one column they put emojis and in the second column they described in English how that emoji or emoji phrase relates to the text, using the third column to cite information in the text.

It was a quick activity that I was really pleased with. The students demonstrated creativity and good textual comprehension.

Paloma Blanca Music Video Competition

I love a good lip-sync video. My students and I usually enjoy making one every year and this Spring Martina Bex gave us a challenge.

We used Martina’s wonderfully (free) resources about Georgie Dann’s Paloma Blanca song and music video in class and the students really enjoyed learning about Georgie and, of course, the absurdity that is the video. Then we began planning how we would recreate Georgie’s masterpiece on our own.

I gave the challenge to my Spanish 2 and Spanish 3 class: whichever class creates the best Paloma Blanca music video doesn’t have to take the semester test.

Vote on which video you prefer: Spanish 2 or Spanish 3.

Skill Building Station Activity

During our Spanish 2 Unit on travel and trains, I try to highlight the cultural importance of train travel in other countries. Towards the end of the Unit, we do some exploration with the Atocha train station in Madrid and discuss the bombings of M-11. I find the discussions about the terrorist attacks is something that interests, surprises and engages the students. It prompts a lot of questions – – which is classroom gold.

Recently I used the Atocha M-11 attacks for a stations activity. Although all the materials used in the stations could be used as summative assessments, I use it merely as skill building formative assessment. This year I used this skill building stations the day after the end of 3rd Quarter. My goal was for my students to use these activities to build their skills.

Using data from the last grading period, I split the class into small groups based on which skill they needed to work on. I identified a group to work on improving their writing and a group to improve their reading skills. I had one group of students that were missing work or had missed class time recently so that they could do acquisition or make-up activities. And most importantly, I identified a group of students for enrichment that could really do a deeper activity.

Normally I like to physically have different stations set up around the room so that the students have to physically move from one spot to another. On this day, however, the physical environment was set-up for an activity in my Spanish 3 class and I didn’t want to mess with two different set-ups. So instead I labeled file folders in the front of the room. Working in their small groups, students went and grabbed a station’s folder and completed the work. When finished, they put that folder back and grabbed another one.

I assigned each group a starting folder. (For example, the group that needed for focus on writing was assigned to start with Folder #1) This was the activity I was most interested in assessing for those students. Each station activity could take a varying length of time. Students were expected to continue to work on the other stations for the remainder of class. At the end of class, I collected all activities to see how they did.

One thing I love about collaboration, student centered activities like stations is that it leaves me untethered so that I can freely float around to areas where I am needed. It gives the students a chance to work independently and really challenges them to rely on themselves.

Dot Game Review

Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 11.19.28 AM.pngI love working in familiar games to review and practice vocabulary. One simple game my kids get excited about is the Dot Game.

In the Dot Game, you have a grid of dots. Partners take turns drawing lines, connecting the dots. If you draw the fourth line completing a box, you score a point and put your initials in the box. The objective is to make more boxes than your partner.

So how to turn this into an activity?

I create a grid of dots. I choose a word from our Unit to be in the center of the boxes that will potentially be formed.


Students take turns drawing lines and making boxes. Once a student has made a box, their partner must use that word in a sentence. Sometimes I just do this out loud as oral practice and sometimes I have them write sentences using the word. It just depends on our focus.

It’s a nice way to review vocabulary while staying in the target language. Today I wanted my students to prepare for tomorrow’s writing assessment (I’ll be using a variation of Martina Bex’s BINGO writing activity). For the assessment, students need to write a paragraph about television and movies using the target vocabulary in their BINGO card (using words correctly to form at least one BINGO).

After we played the Dot Game today, I had students make a list of the words in their partner’s boxes. Then, they had to use those words to write a paragraph about television and movies—essentially the same standard that I am grading tomorrow. Today was all about practice. How can I use this list of words into a paragraph? What do these words mean? How do I use them?

Students in this class circled the words they needed to use on their vocabulary sheets; in other classes I just told them to write their list on their paper.

Today this worked great for me as a Monday activity. It’s largely student centered so my job was to just facilitate the activities. I also love getting them to review vocabulary while staying in the target language and not thinking just about the straight translations of everything. Today they were focused on how to use the words to express thoughts rather than just trying to be a dictionary of terms. I feel like it gave them some good practice for tomorrow’s final writing assessment.



There is a great episode of The Office where manager Michael Scott stops all activity in the office for a designated period of time on Monday for a mental break where the staff watches a movie. His boss questions him on this later:

Jan: How would a movie increase productivity, Michael? How on earth would it do that?
Michael: People work faster after.
Jan: Magically.
Michael: No, they have to, to make up for the time they lost, watching the movie

It’s a popular belief that taking a break to do something frivolous cannot lead to increased productivity. I experimented with something called Cantaninja in my Spanish 2 classes during the 4th Quarter of school and I think Michael Scott would approve.

Cantaninja is an idea I came across reading a (wonderfully helpful and insightful) blog by Martina Bex. She describes a class incentive program and an earned privilege where the students can stop time and demand a Spanish song be played.

To begin, I created a playlist of Spanish songs that I thought my students would be intrigued by. My Cantaninja playlist is ever evolving–I’m constantly adding and subtracting songs based on what I find, what seems appropriate, what the students are “in to” and what units we are studying.

I taught three sections of Spanish 2 during the Spring. I selected one student from each section to be that class period’s designated Cantaninja. These names were posted in the front of the room–underneath a ninja mask. This designated student could attack class at any time by yelling out “CANTANINJA!”. At that moment, all activity in the class must stop and the class must watch a music video of the Cantaninja’s choosing (from the playlist).

Here are the rules of Cantaninja:

  1. Cantaninja cannot be used during the last 5 minutes of class
  2. No activity can be done during Cantaninja time (no work, no computer, no talking, etc)
  3. Only one Cantaninja per class per day
  4. Cantaninja cannot be used to skip a planned activity (if we’re supposed to have a quiz, we’re still having the quiz)

Cantaninja is something I need to keep in my classroom next year. The short little breaks actually did increase productivity–both for me and my students. I had to be more mindful of how I planned and structured my class because I never knew when (or if) a Cantaninja attack was coming. I had to be very organized so I wasn’t left standing there at the end of the hour with things left undone. Preparing for the possibility of a Cantaninja attack helped me be more mindful of the lessons I had planned–what was critical to do, what could we do without, what I can do if I need more time because there was no Cantaninja attack.

The productivity effect on my students was also interesting. There were some days when there was no Cantaninja attack because the Cantaninja felt it was more important just to keep to the regularly scheduled lesson. When there was a Cantaninja attack, students accepted that this was there time to take a break and then when work time rolled around, they were more apt to work then rather than find ways to waste time and mentally check out. Normally, as the teacher, I had 100% control over the agenda of the day. With Cantaninja, I relinquished control to the class through one individual. This individual had the power to adjust our class agenda for the day.

I liked noting when students would initiate Cantaninja. There was one particular time this Spring where all three sections called out for Cantaninja during the same point in my lesson (and the class cheered with relief). This was a cue to me that this particular activity  was not enjoyable.

Sometimes students would confer with one another. “When should I yell Cantaninja?” “Do we want to do one today?” Watching them discuss and reason when and why and if they should take a break was fascinating. Some designated Cantaninjas listened to the class, some didn’t. Some rarely called for an attack, some jumped at the opportunity within the first minute of class. The variety added an exciting variable to the class that I think helped make it more engaging.

Let’s not forget that this is a language classroom and the goal is to, you know, learn the Spanish language! While on it’s face Cantaninja is just a nice brain break, it was also a way for me to expose my students to popular artists and Spanish music. At first, students would bombard me with questions about what everything meant. After awhile, the questions stopped and I think they just started appreciating the music–realizing that learning a language isn’t all about translating everything word for word. But they did pick up words and phrases from the songs (Thanks J.Lo and Prince Royce). After one class watched Tengo Tu Love I had two students mocking how “basic” that song was. I questioned what they meant and one said, “I’m pretty sure a beginning Spanish 1 student could understand those lyrics. They obviously didn’t try hard to write a good song”. They continued to pick on the song and I just returned to my seat proudly thinking “Wow, they recognized the simplicity of the lyrics! They understood what it meant!”.

12050897333_be52220d42_zOther reflections:

  • A favorite song was definitely “La Camisa Negra”. A few have it downloaded and listen to it regularly now.
  • Students recognized that “this Wisin guy” collaborates in a lot of different videos. “He must be really good”.
  • I’ve loved Enrique Iglesias for quite some time so I liked the ability to bring his music to the class. But Cantaninja also gave me the opportunity to introduce these kids to Ricky Martin. Although “Livin la Vida Loca” is mostly in English, I maintain it has important cultural significance. It wasn’t that long ago that Latin music exploded into the pop chart (Holla 1998!) but that was still before some of these kids were born. Imagine being born in a world that doesn’t know Ricky Martin? I cannot live with that. Cantaninja has selfishly been a way for me to revisit my high school music self.

Trapdoor Activity

Trapdoor is a bellringer or opening activity I do to engage the class in listening, speaking and comprehending the Spanish language. It takes a small amount of prep work but the payoff is great.

I created some warm-up activities for the first days of class in Spanish 2. It always takes me a little while to gauge where these new students are in their proficiency.  The warm-up activities I created go over the basics from Spanish 1.Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 1.45.43 PM.png

Here’s how it works: I read a paragraph to the students, telling them that they need to pay attention and be able to repeat the paragraph back to me. They usually get a little scared by the notion that they have to repeat a paragraph. After I’m done reading, I project the Trapdoor Script to the class. The paragraph is missing words and in their place are three options.

I choose one student. That student begins to read the paragraph–filling in the blank with appropriate word. Once they are wrong, just “buzz” them or say “no” and choose another student. The next student has to go back to the beginning and read the paragraph.

Occasionally the first student is able to knock it out of the park. Sometimes we have to go through about 15 students before it’s read back to be perfectly from start to finish. I prefer when it needs to be repeated because the class gets to hear the language from their classmates and needs to listen to hear if their choices were correct.


Download the free Novice Trapdoor Activities here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Trapdoor-Novice-Activity-Spanish-2590256


Reflexive Verb Image Formulas

Following the success of my Direct Object Pronoun Goal Game, I knew I wanted to create similar activities for my classroom. I created an image formula presentation to help my students conjugate their reflexive verbs about the daily routine.

I began by finding available clipart for the reflexive verb vocabulary that my students were studying (cepillarse, ducharse, afeitarse, acostarse, dormirse, pintarse, bañarse, secarse, levantarse, maquillarse, peinarse and quitarse). Then I choose the images that would represent the Yo, Tú, Él, Nosotros and Ellos forms. I created the formulaic layouts in PowerPoint and I had 65 editable image formulas for our reflexive verbs.

I personalized the “nosotros” slide by making it a picture of our Denver High School student body. The students immediately recognized it as “us”. Because I think he’s dreamy, I used Enrique Iglesias to represent the “Él” form, but when I implement this in class, I replace him with a student, teacher or some other figure that has meaning to the kids (last year it was an assistant football coach). The students love personal touches because it makes the content more meaningful to them.

After the presentation is created, I choose to do a large group conjugation game called the Goal Game. First, I save the presentation as images and create a slideshow the 1) randomizes the images and 2) has timed transitions. I usually set my transitions to 7 seconds.

The Goal Game works like this:

(You can see an example of the Goal Game in my post on Direct Object Pronouns)

—Setup: Put one chair in front of the screen that will project the reflexive verb image formulas. This will be the “Hot Seat”.

—Divide the students into 2 teams.

—Team 1 sends one student to the “Hot Seat”. This student must give the correct reflexive verb conjugation of the formula depicted in the image before the slide flips to a new picture. Students may answer multiple times as long as they give the correct answer before the slide changes.

—If the student cannot give the correct conjugation by the time the slide flips, their time in the “Hot Seat” is over and the next team sends up a representative.

—Each successful conjugation/slide is 1 point for the team. I limit students to 10 slides.

—Before the student begins, ask the student to set a goal of how many formulas they think they will be able to successfully conjugate. If they do not meet that goal, it’s ok! If they DO meet their goal, they score that many bonus points for their team.