Differentiated Communication Tasks


Among the internet’s greatest resources for language teachers interested in comprehensible input is Laura Sexton. Her blog PBL in the TL has given me a lot of inspiration. My recent implementation of PUEDOS stems from a blog she wrote

I started using PUEDOS at the beginning of my Spanish 2, 3 and 4 classes the past two weeks. Now I can sit back and reflect on their power and feel encouraged about the potential for increased communication happening student-to-student in the classroom. Students are given a sheet with 10 communication tasks; varying in complexity and skill. I appreciated the template for these proficiency tasks provided by AATSPSC keynote speaker Alanna Breen and used this to help me develop communication tasks related to the content and skills I was trying to develop within our units.

Puedos

I allot the first 5 to 8 minutes of class for 5 consecutive days for the completion of PUEDOS. The goal is to prove that you can do as many different communication tasks as possible (Puedo hacerlo). Each student must get a classmate to assess whether or not they can do the task. I asked the students to be critical and helpful and to really be sure that the student could complete the task confidently before signing off.

During PUEDO time, students interact with each other in the target language; listening, responding and helping each other successfully complete communication tasks. I would also float around the room, listening and occasionally assessing a student’s ability to complete a task as well.

After five days I collected the sheets to see how the students did. When I collected them, I would spot check and ask students to complete a task that they had indicated that they could do. This helped keep them accountable for the learning and also cautioned classmates to be honest in their assessments of each other. If they didn’t feel confident that Riley could do it when I asked him–don’t tell him that he can do it (No, lo siento no puedes).

I loved using this at the beginning of class because it just blasted the room with a sea of Spanish sounds and communication and helped set the tone for an enriching and engaging experience. Since each student could only sign off twice on a paper, it forced interaction between students that normally don’t interact. The repetitive nature of it was nice and it allowed for a lot of individualization. Certain students were stronger in some of the tasks than in others and benefited from hearing, or “testing”, another student. I also was able to witness great examples of collaborative learning and students helping each other out. One girl told a student that she didn’t think he could do it yet and then followed up with a great explanation of why and suggestions of how he could improve and practice.

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For Spanish 2 and 3, I did use these PUEDOS as a general summative assessment in interpersonal communication. I don’t know if I always will but I did for our first implementation. I love the fact that I can customize these tasks to address Unit specific objectives or extensions. Spanish 3 recently completed PUEDOS while working on the first half of “La Llorona de Mazatlan” by Katie Baker and some of the PUEDO tasks really helped comprehension and connection of the material.

I look forward to more engaging communication tasks like this and am so proud of my students and their ability to communicate with each other on a daily basis.

Read Laura Sexton’s Blog on Differentiated Social Warm-ups here.

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Quizlet Live to Introduce a Chapter


Some of my best teaching moments come from spur of the moment ideas and adjustments. Today I was introducing Chapter 2 of La Llorona de Mazatlan and felt that I needed something that included more CI and opportunities for comprehension.

I frontloaded 8 key phrases and vocabulary words and used them to talk about myself. We circled and created unique phrases with these vocabulary phrases.

Then we moved into Quizlet Live. I created a set of phrases copied from Chapter 2 of the novel. During the Quizlet Live game, students had to read and select the correct ending for the sentences. It was not an easy task and required a lot of reading comprehension and discussion of probable statements that could make sense. The activity took a little while but by the time we finally had a winner, students had previewed several key statements and moments from the Chapter we were about to read.Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 11.03.44 AM

After the game, we made predictions about what would happen in Chapter 2 based on the phrases they remembered from the Quizlet Live game.

Overall I felt very good about the level of comprehension we achieved today in a short time. Doing something like this to preview the material in the chapter was beneficial and I need to think of ways to continue to do this more in the future.

Preguntas Viernes


I dread that moment when you are teaching and you know you’ll have a gap of time at the end of class. Over the years I’ve tried to build myself an arsenal of options that make for great fillers and extensions those times when you need them.

A few weeks ago this led to the creation of Preguntas Viernes in Spanish 3. Each student was given a slip of paper and had 1 minute to ask me a question—anything at all they are curious about. We set the clock for 5 minutes and I had a student helper read (and weed out) questions. I answered completely in the target language.

Initially I wanted the questions to be focused around our culture topic (What questions do you have about Día de los Muertos?). But I was interested in their interest of me.

  • Did you have a job in high school?
  • What is your favorite Spanish word?
  • Which class is the most difficult to teach and why?
  • What’s your favorite outfit and why?

Initially I thought the questions needed to be written in Spanish. I liked that my student helper read them in English though so that every student knew the topic and could narrow in on something in my answer. I feel like the alternative shuts out some of my strugglers for 5 minutes. Plus by not limiting their vocabulary in Spanish, I was able to hit some knew phrases and give a comprehensible spin on something new.

Initially I thought it would just be something we did that one day but the reaction was so positive and the results strongly supported this happening routinely. So now I have to work this in every viernes.

It’s a great interpretive activity for the students to see how much they understand. It was great for me to model answering questions “on the spot” and staying in the target language.

As of now it’s just been practice and nothing summative, but I can easily see this as a listening assessment in the future. I had a meeting today with some great colleagues that also suggested a student panel for a future questions day. I love the idea of eventually extending it and finding ways to build off of this great, low prep opportunity.

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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