Using Google Classroom for Interpersonal Tasks

Inspired by a recent #IWLA18 encounter with the fabulous Laura Sexton, I’ve tried to focus on more AAPPL aligned assessments. Or more generally…creating better tasks that ask my students to use their skills to communicate and complete a task.

I decided to try something. It’s always important just to try and fail than to always wonder how things could be better. I define the performance task: communicate with someone to make plans to visit the Dominican Republic. I wanted to be that someone so my creative question became: how can I simulate ongoing, informal communication in an organized way somewhat authentically?

I thought about modern communication and thought about replicating email or text. Neither sounds super easy but I wondered about Google Classroom….

In Google Classroom you can create a Question. Each student can answer that question BUT they can also just do Private Comments. These are just comments that go back and forth between me and the students. I posed the task to them in Google Classroom.

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Because I was the ongoing monitor and responder to this task, I could gauge proficiency throughout the entire task. To help guide them to when they demonstrated our defined levels of proficiency, I gave code words that would signify when they hit their benchmark.

The students had one week to complete this task. They began sending me messages and what I loved is that I would get an email notification everytime someone added a private comment. So at 8:30 at night I knew that someone was trying to communicate with me and it kept me alerted to who I needed to respond to.

I would respond and we continued carrying out our conversation. Just as if it was an authentic communication—sometimes they had to wait a little while for a response. Honestly though I kept up with the flow pretty well. Only one day (when I forced them all to go in and check their progress) did I get flooded with info and get a little bit behind.

I stressed this was a communication exercise and I was pleased with the grammar errors I saw ūüôā There is a lot of thought behind how they tried to communicate and even if it is not perfect–it was (for the most part) comprehensible. #goals

It was fun for me too! Within my 23 students I planned romantic getaways for 2, a bro-cation, family vacation and helped one individual escape a dangerous situation in Detroit. There was a lot of creative and personal expression and I loved making them do that themselves. Some students stuck to a budget and others said money was no object because they had a high paying job.

And I didn’t mention this but it was culturally based. They had to do their own research on the Dominican Republic (and/or use my guides) to find out what they want to do.

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Post-reflection thoughts:

I had only 23 students so it was relatively manageable. I will never attempt this with my 40+ Spanish 3 students.

More structure is needed next time for those kids that don’t really take the initiative to do something unless specifically told. They would only respond if I said “Would you go in and respond to me now?” so this whole project was kind of a disaster for them.

I spent too much time arranging flight plans in the US so I think next time I will have them start by telling me when they are arriving in the DR and take it from there. About 50% of our convo was just about getting them there and I think it would have been more culturally relevant to talk more about what we’re doing when they arrive.

I think doing this orally FlipGrid style would be fun and that’s where I’m headed next.

Presentations from IWLA 2018

The community of foreign language educators in Iowa is inspiring and active in supporting each other. I hadn’t attended a IWLA conference in a few years but was a proud recipient of their grant in 2017. I decided I would pay it forward by presenting at this year’s conference.

(The fact that I was able to meet Sra. Spanglish was just an added bonus).

I overshot the mark and submitted three proposals and ended up presenting….three times.

Here are the breakdown slides of my three presentations. The slides probably require me as a guide but I’m sharing them in case anyone wants any of the information I referenced in my sessions and needs to glimpse it again.

Hashtag Learning: Using Social Media in Today’s Classroom

We cannot deny the role that social media plays in our world and the lives of our students. Rather than competing with social media, this presentation examines how teachers can responsibly use social media to connect with students and a global audience, all while promoting engagement in the target language. #learning

Google Apps Hidden Potential

Using Google in the classroom is a common practice for most 1:1 schools in Iowa. This presentation will dive deep into some creative applications of Google Slides, Drawings, Forms and Keep, including how world language teachers can use #Booksnaps and Hyperdocs as dynamic assessments and practice activities. Emily will also share some Google extensions that have made teaching so much easier. Isn’t that what technology is all about?!

Keeping Balance in a Dynamic Classroom

CI! TPRS! FVR! ACTFL! SBG! IWLA! ISTE! Everywhere you turn there are alphabetic suggestions for best practices in the language learning classroom. The pressure to keep up (or the FOMO) can be overwhelming. This presentation reflects on the importance of individual best practices & focusing on your learners—including instructional strategies, practices and technologies that help Emily keep a balance between all the compelling options available in the 21st century classroom.

If you have more specific questions to follow up with me, please contact me.

Quick Class Account Set-Up

Taking time to set-up class online accounts is necessary and eats up a lot of valuable instructional time—time that is valuable at the beginning of the year in order to build relationships and establish a class focused on language learning.

No matter how well you plan these days, there is always a kid that changes schedules, is absent or random computer issues that result in me having to backtrack throughout the year with a few stragglers no matter what. Embracing that, this year I’m taking a new approach on this set-up time.

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I will share a grid of different online options that are suggested “linkages” for the students to connect to. I set a timer. They have 15 minutes to do as much as they can. After that, we move on with class BUT they will always have access to this document and these links.

Hopefully this helps expedite the process and makes it a little less consuming and more student focused. Share your ideas for procedures and set-up!

Flexible Zone Seating in High School

A popular best practice in world language classrooms today is that of deskless classrooms. Friends that have gone deskless rave about the engagement and the increased interactivity that free space invites.

Then there is another trend of flexible seating, where teachers remove traditional desk setups in favor of comfortable, coffee shop-esque environments. This also seems very student centered and invites collaboration too.

My classroom is not just a world language classroom. Many days of the week we do push desks back and are “deskless for the day” but I did not want to move all the way there for a variety of reasons. What I decided to do instead is create a few zones around the room of flexible seating options.

During classes, I will not have a teacher’s desk. My reason for lending my desk for student seating includes:

  1. I have some very large class sizes this year and will need some extra space for students
  2. During instructional time it will be good for me to not have a home base. When I need to sit and work, I can sit elsewhere in the room and be more accessible to students
  3. The desk remains mine during prep and before and after school, which is when the bulk of my work gets done anyway
  4. I inherited the world’s largest teacher desk which makes a great shareable workspace

The setup this year also leaves a giant empty space in the front center of the room. This will make those “deskless days” much easier because there won’t be a lot of desks to move. (The Quad will have to move back a few feet and the “LL’s” will get pushed to the side.)

As with all great changes, I’m anticipating challenges.

Anticipated Challenge #1:¬†The bulk of students will be physically concentrated in the back of the room.¬†Solution:¬†In my larger classes where every desk is full, there is really nothing that can be done about that. In classes less than 20 students, I’m limiting the occupancy of certain zones to eliminate uneven distribution.

Anticipated Challenge #2: Students choosing their own seats can leave some students isolated.¬†Solution:¬†It can be hard to balance that both A) some students prefer isolation and B) some students¬†get isolated by others. Since so much of class involves interaction and communication, I made a rule that everyone must have an “hombromigo” (shoulder-buddy). The “hombromigo” is a student in your vicinity that you will talk to that day. Everyone must identify their hombromigos for the day and everyone must have one. Even if they are not sitting right next to each other or in the same zone necessarily, they need to be able to lean or turn toward their hombromigo and talk to him or her within 3 seconds.

Anticipated Challenge #3:¬†Who gets to sit where?¬†Solution:¬†Mostly I will employ a first-come-first-served system. Maybe that’s unfair. But everyday can and could be different. I have two special zones that I think require a little discretion so I’m labeling those “VIP”. Students can earn VIP status (and throughout the year move up to one-star VIP, two-star VIP, etc. but completing different mastery tasks). VIPs get preference¬†whenever there is a problem or conflict.

Perhaps also to aid in this challenge, I’m having “mix in” days every 10 days or so. “Mix-in” days are teacher-assigned zone seatings. Typically I will do this when I want to group students for a specific activity (sometimes grouped by skill level). Mix-in days add some variety and hopefully encourage new interactions.

I’m not addressing (specifically) any behavioral challenges because I feel that any seating behavior challenges fall under the category of general class expectations of behavior. If a student is misbehaving or not listening, it’s not the fault of the zone but the student. I will address that as I do with any student concern.

Still to come:

I have a small cafe bistro table that will be in the front of the room for me to have during instructional time (I need a place to put my computer!). I plan on bringing in two cafe chairs to place in front of me in that empty space. Perhaps two special learners can join me at the Huff Café!

Combining Goosechase and Syllabus Information

I have syllabus fatigue. It’s always a good idea to find a new, engaging way to review this information with students. This year my Spanish 4 class consists of students that have had me for the past 2 years. They understand me and my procedures. Still there are some valuable things to review. What I decided to do this year was combine my love of quick one class period Goosechase activities with reviewing the syllabus and reviewing information from last year.

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When I do one class period Goosechases, I usually select 3-5 team captains that have the app on their own phone and are fast to get logged in. Once in, they assemble into teams and I set a 30 or 35 minute time limit and off they go.

This year’s welcoming Goosechase includes information they can find in this year’s syllabus that is either: posted on a QR code by the door or posted in Google Classroom. It also includes some #throwbacks to skills and concepts learned in my Spanish 3 class last year. Then I also added a few Spanish-specific caption or speaking missions.

If you are not familiar with Goosechase but you like either: gamification, photos & videos or using phones as learning tools, I recommend you investigate. After a year with dabbling here and there with Goosechase, I’ve picked up momentum so that it’s now a standard activity in almost every unit—sometimes as a one period activity like this but I also enjoy giving it as an outside the classroom option for enrichment.

Selfishly I’m also planning on using the photo submissions for a lot of this syllabus review in my classroom throughout the year. What better way to explain expected behaviors to my new Spanish 2 students than to show them a visual example.

Here are some other ways to spice up “syllabus” day:

  • Make it a fill in the blank activity. Come up with the most realistic answer that matches the teacher OR the craziest, funniest and most entertaining answer
  • Create a syllabus of errors and have the students identify what’s wrong
  • Make a syllabus jeopardy game
  • Make a syllabus scavenger hunt

Using Google Keep

Google Keep is the often forgotten darling of the Google applications in my opinion. During my down town in the summer, I often rely on Google Keep to keep track of my to-do items and to save ideas I want to refer to later.

Google Keep is essentially a digital sticky note wall. You can create (and color) the notes, archive them when you are done, create checkboxes and check off items. Another great reason to utilize the application is that it instantly updates across all devices. I can make a quick note in Google Keep on my phone and it will be there on my desktop application next time I open it.

Below are some highlights of using Google Keep to make your life a little easier:

Agenda/Daily Planner

You can “pin” any note in Google Keep to create a heading of important “to do” items. I first saw this as a suggestion for students to keep a planner for all their classes; each class would be it’s own “pinned” note in Google Keep so that it is always at the top. I created my “pins” to be the course I teach and then just a general Administrative note for any job related duties I have to do.

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To make these “pins” stand out from regular notes, I added a photo to each note. The photo was made in Canva (and utilized Bitmojis). During the school year I use this all the time to remind me what I need to make copies of or what quizzes I need to push out yet and schedule on Classroom.

For more Student Planner tricks using Google Keep (including setting reminders and alerts, check this video).

Organizing Notes

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When you start building a lot of notes, it can certainly look like a mess. The color coding ability is nice but the best feature of Google Keep is it’s searchability and tagging. You can type keywords into the search bar and it will give you any of your notes that use that term. For example if I know I wrote that La Llorona de Mazatlan listening quiz¬†somewhere,¬†I can search “Laney” and it will bring up related notes. I use that feature a lot.

You can also tag notes with categories–multiple categories. You can see in the photo above I have some notes tagged with “employability”. When I do my employability skills assessment, I select that tag and I see only those notes. You can do multiple tags too.

Integration into Google Docs and Slides

One of the slickest things about Keep is that it can open in a toolbar within Google Docs and Google Slides so that I can go back and forth between each.

Under the Tools menu, select Keep notepad and you will see all your Google Keep notes. I selected the tag “psychology” when I was working with this presentation and I saw only my Psychology Google Keep notes. I could work on both easily–no switching tabs or having multiple windows open.

This is especially nice when making comments and giving feedback on Docs for students. I open my comments Keep note and copy and paste feedback that I’m giving out commonly. Sometimes I have comments preloaded and sometimes I add more “stock” feedback to the Keep note as I’m grading based on what I see.It has saved me a lot of time and it’s also good to go back and reflect on the comments. If I’m constantly having to make that comment—what can I do about that?

There are some other terrific features of Google Keep–including being able to share notes, draw and do equations and set reminders. These were just a few of my favorites.

Redesigning and Rethinking Classroom Syllabus

In prepping for the 2018-2019 school year, I did a lot of thinking about my classroom syllabus. I’ve always enjoyed using innovative design elements and usually update my class website at the same time. But when facing that much work, I wondered:¬†how useful is a classroom syllabus anyway? I asked the question on Twitter:


Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 9.12.12 AM.pngThe results are only helpful because it reaffirms what I already wondered.

Never Use It/Who Cares

In this instant gratification society, giving someone a list of expectations and procedures and expecting that it exists after 7 days seems like an outdated notion. We want to know now, and if I don’t need to know the info right this second, don’t tell me now. Tell me when I care. This is the category I feel a lot of class information falls into with my students.

However I am required to prepare something–at least for parents and administrators so this was not a realistic option.


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Basic one page syllabus

Paper is the most traditional format of a syllabus and it’s nice to see it still has a place in the classroom. One thing I dislike is multipage syllabi. And I really like fun, colorful design elements but the pretty infographic syllabi never seemed to print well or pack the same punch as the digital version.

So this year my paper version of the syllabus will be basic, short and include only essential elements. Those wanting more information can look at the digital versions. (See a copy of my paper syllabus HERE).

Clickable with Links (Online)

I’ve tried this a few different ways in the past. One of my favorites was an App Smash of Canva or Pictochart & Thinglink (example) but this year I opted for a Google Slides clickable option.

This is the syllabus version that contains the most complete information about the course and expectations. It includes clickable links to information and relevant websites. It allowed me to use design elements. This is the version of the syllabus that I prefer. I plan on giving this to students and keeping it posted in Google Classroom.

Click here to see this version in Google Slides.

Posted Online

Technically any digital version that share online is “posted” online but I updated my classroom webpage to essentially be an online syllabus too. I think that we could count the Google Slide version as a “webpage” but most parents and community members are more familiar with a traditional website as opposed to the clickable slide version.

I again used Adobe Spark to serve as my visual introduction to my classroom. I‘ve reflected in the past how a classroom webpage isn’t utilized much for student/teacher interaction and information sharing with student management systems like Google Classroom, Schoology or Canvas. (Although it’s still super important to have a web presence!) This year’s class website is a syllabus in website form.

Click here to see my online website syllabus.

Going into the 2018-2019, I will be armed with three different versions of the same information. Each will serve it’s own purpose and hopefully be useful to different types of people. What’s your favorite version of a syllabus?

Bright Spots of the 2017-2018 School Year

Since my school year ended, I’ve been taking some reflection time to think and plan for the upcoming year. But before I completely unleash myself onto a new school year, it’s a good idea to celebrate my 10 bright spots of the last.

1. Social Media Integration

My brightest professional learning this year was done with George Couros. I had the opportunity to hear him a few times this year and he spoke about an innovator’s mindset. It was really reshaped my approach to education and the vision I have for my classroom in the future. One thing I was immediately able to apply to this school year was a ramped up social media presence and integration into the classroom. I’ve written about this before but I’m really happy with the online culture it is creating. I’ve had great feedback from parents and truly believe this is the new “Class Newsletter” or email home to parents. Social media is so instant, transparent and interactive and it lends itself nicely our classroom. I believe we’re modeling powerful and positive use of social media–which is all the more important for teens to see. (Read more about how I use social media in the classroom).

2. Story Acting

Allison from Mis Clases Locas hosted a free TPRS training this March in Dunkerton, IA and since it was 1) less than 15 miles away and 2) Allison is amazing and 3) I had never had formal TPRS training, I thought it was a good opportunity to go. The day was really good and I’m grateful for TPRSBooks for making it possible. I had a lot of unanswered questions regarding assessments that day but one idea that I decided to immediately implement was using students as actors. Mike Coxen demonstrated how this could be done with novels and I tried it the next day.

My class was reading Rebeldes de Tejas and I used the students as actors in the Chapter. It was fun watching the characters unfold. In Spanish I said that I needed a student to play the role of Juan Almonte. We discussed the personality and behaviors of the character and looked around the room for students that shared those characteristics, personalizing the material as we went. We chose a really loyal and nice girl to play the role of Juan and the chapter continued to develop. These characters moved around the room, used props and acted out the chapter as we read aloud together. The chapter took a little more time but they had so much fun. (We had our All-Star pitcher play the role of the canons!)

Here’s how I knew it was a bright spot success: The next day when we did more novel work, the students kept referencing the student actors and the events that took place. (Where was the young girl standing when Santa Ana saw her? Oh Abby and I were standing outside a church and Jonah was looking at us.)¬†Comprehension of these two chapters was way higher than the other chapters. It was a great method of working with the novel in an engaging way.

I continued to do this with novels and also did it with our Song Stories, which was another great bright spot.

3. Songs as Stories

I think I first read about using music videos and songs as CI stories from Kara Jacobs. I used songs as stories a few different times this year and each time it was a great comprehensible success. The inclusion of the music and artist was a good cultural connection and the videos sent themselves nicely to stories.

My first major success with this was with Nicky Jam’s El Amante¬†but I also used it with Ana Mena, Alvaro Soler, Lasso and Elvis Crespo (during my Fiesta Fatal Unit). These were fun to have the students act out as we told the stories and the repetitive storytelling helped build good comprehension.

4. Libros Libres

I was fortunate to receive a grant from the Iowa World Language Association (IWLA)¬†and a grant from our local Casey’s Convenience Store to build a classroom of comprehensible readers for the classroom. I started doing Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) and appreciated the opportunity to give students some access and immersion in materials that they chose.

I learned a lot throughout the free reading process–some that doesn’t probably fit in the bright spots post–but overall it’s been a great addition to our classroom. I enjoyed also using my new library with a group of enrichment students. Providing more enrichment opportunities has always been a goal and I was happy to see that happen this year.

Oh and I decided to stop calling it FVR and instead am calling it Libros Libres. The kids never knew or cared what FVR stood for and I saw a need for students to learn the difference between the word “book” and “free”.

5. Drag and Drop Google Slide Assessments

I read a very good article by¬†Kristine Keefe on Maris Hawkin’s blog with different ideas for using Google tools in the classroom. I started to build more interactive Google Slide activities and assessments where the students dropped and drag elements or reorganized things to show comprehension.

I upgraded from doing Hyperdocs in long Google Docs to using Google Slides and also started doing some reading and listening assessments as Google Slides.¬†The students responded positively to this and I have to say that it was much easier to grade. The visual sense of it helped me understand common errors students were making (for example if I constantly found myself highlighting the teal boxes–I knew that was a common error people were making). It takes a little work to make it and get it ready but I’m so glad I’ve started to do this more.

6. Roster to Slides Function

Since we are a Google school, I’m always interested in better ways to use all the Google tools. Alice Keeler is very helpful with that. One add-on that I have loved this year is called Roster to Slides. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: take a roster of your students and it automatically creates a Google Slide presentation with one slide for each student.

This has been super valuable for formative practice activities. I can scan to see who has done what AND the students can look at each other’s work. Usually after the work is done, we take turns reading other slides and commenting on each other’s work. Technically each slide is open and anyone can edit any slide but I’ve not run into a problem yet and since I don’t do it as a graded summative activity, it doesn’t usually matter. It’s so much better than having to click and open 56 different docs or slides in Classroom!

Mini-bright spot: Gotta love the addition of Bitmoji Chrome Extension to showcase student voice!

7. Proficiency Grading Rubrics in Google Forms

Another great Google tool was used with Forms and Sheets to help me effectively give feedback to students. I created Google Forms with the proficiency criteria for speaking and presentational skills. I wrote about the entire setup and process here but it was really a time-saver for me. One of my personal problems of practice has been effective feedback. It’s something I’m still going to work on next year but I thought this was a good way to communicate to students what I thought they could improve with their language skills. (Read about the add-on and process here).

Under this category I would also say that I found a better footing with proficiency based grading. We’ve been using a Standards Based grading system and during the second semester I did a lot of studying proficiency rubrics and tried to do a better job of using them in my assessments.

8. Employability Skills

My school has been investigating Standards Based Grading and trying to figure out what it would look like building-wide. We received some great information from the Shenandoah School District in Iowa and how they are doing SBG.¬† They referenced the State of Iowa’s 21st Century and Employability Skills for students grades 9-12 and how they address these through grading. Since I was constantly asking the students to be “Prepared, Interactive and Engaged”, I thought there was a place to include employability standards in my classroom.

I rolled this system out during the 4th Quarter and on the first day I shared it with the students, I knew it was a good idea. Several students commented as much and asked if all teachers would be doing the same. We talked about each characteristic, it’s importance, what it looks like in the classroom and how students could exhibit these behaviors. A lot of this discussion was done in the target language but we had some informal chats about what it means to be a responsible and respectable young person today.

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I included these measurements at midterm in 4th Quarter. Scores were included in the grading program but NOT calculated as part of their grade; I wanted their grade to only reflect their language learning and without more administrative input, I wasn’t willing to mess with calculations. I just felt it was important to communicate to parents and students the behaviors and attitudes they exhibit in the learning environment. Most students scored “proficient” and I reserved by high marks for students that were examples. I kept a spreadsheet with me at the front of the room and would jot down observations of their skills anytime something stuck out to me. At midterm we also did self-evaluations and peer evaluations that helped me gain insight. My original intention was to do it again at the end of the term but ended up not doing it.

9. Peardeck and GimKit

I’d been hearing about PearDeck since 2014 (thanks to Maris Hawkins) and decided to dabble with it this year. I stumbled into a free Premium Trial that somehow I stretched for about 6 months. I remember the first day I made a deck and used it with my Spanish 4 class. I honestly told them–“I’m not sure about this site–let’s just see if this works”. When the bell rang, several of them told me this was a winner and they couldn’t wait to do it again.

I started it using it more and more with instruction and found I was able to receive great formative feedback, the students were engaged and honestly lessons were just more fun. Then I tried the Vocabulary Deck. Awesome! Then…I thought about the possibilities of using it as an assessment tool. I would prepare a deck that had some practice slides at the beginning that we would do together and then I turned it on to student paced mode with the students flipping through and answering questions on their own. I could export those results, use Flubaroo to grade and provide feedback and the result was a great, easy and¬†attractive¬†assessment. Now I’m just waiting to buy my Premium account for 2018-2019!

Another site that the students declared instant winner: GimKit. (Read more from Maris here). I had a 2 week trial of GimKit Pro and it’s another¬†must buy for next year. I love how it’s different than Kahoot, Quizizz and Quizlet Live but still is based on my Quizlet sets. I love the assigning homework feature because it makes for great outside of class practice.

10. Alvaro Soler

We use Cantaninja in my classroom and the current playlist has 3 Alvaro Soler songs on it. I love listening to the students talk about their Soler-related accomplishments-I follow him on Instagram, I know all the words to Sofia, I figured out what El Mismo Sol is about, etc.¬†In general, he’s just a bright spot ūüôā

I like to end Spanish class not with a fiesta but with a music video. I like the kids to take a song and interpret it and make it their own. We did Aseraje, last year’s Paloma Blanca contest and this year Spanish 3 made a video for Cintura by Alvaro Soler. I used Kara Jacob’s unit for the song (another song story!) and everything about this was wonderful. The learning they accomplished was great but also the video itself is just really fun and a great digital way to always remember this group.

My only regret is that I only did the video project with Spanish 3. Should have done it with both courses again.

Which just leads me to: things I need to do differently next year! (Blog post to come)

Focusing on YOUR Classroom

A few days ago I read a Facebook post from Martina Bex’s Comprehensible Classroom and it encapsulated a lot of my journey from traditional foreign language education to this CI/TPRS/Novel based instruction mash-up I currently employ.

I want to start by stating how grateful I am to abundance of research, resources and opinions out there. It helped push me off that cliff and into a richer classroom experience. It is not unlike a can of worms, though; everyday I tag more ideas, discover more research and hear about more methodology. The information stream can be endless. That’s exciting—but it could be debilitating.

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Link to Post

Martina ends this post by saying “Be Purposeful”. Utilize what you can for a focused purpose. You have to know the students in front of you and what will work for them. This is a golden-age of CI resources and rather than choose from the flashiest, most talked about, or trendiest topic or resource, I believe it’s important to make decisions based on your individual classroom and students.

I’ll re-emphasize something too: make decisions based on YOUR individual classroom. This year I did a lot of reflection on what’s out there and what my personal strengths are in the classroom. I’ve been more successful when I focus on what the students need AND what I am naturally best suited for as an instructor and classroom leader. Occasionally I felt guilt in the planning process, questioning whether or not I’m implementing the theory, pedagogy or approaches with fidelity the way the experts say.

But (as with most things in life) when you trust yourself, you are going to do it right. I’m glad I took some reflection time this year to really think about what my strengths as a professional educator are and how I can implement new approaches into that in the most effective way possible.

Summertime is usually I time I devout to combing through resources and deciding what to work on for the next school year. As you do the same, I encourage you to trust yourself and celebrate the bright spots of your professional life.

In the next few days I might do a blog post on my “Brightest Spots of the 2017-2018 School Year”.

Fiesta Fatal Novel Resources

My Spanish 2 students ended a very successful novel unit with Fiesta Fatal by Mira Canion. I did a one week introduction on a Quincea√Īera and then spent around 5 weeks with the actual novel. The vocabulary and structure acquisition was phenomenal and the story provided us with a lot of fun discussions.

I’m writing this blog to share with you the way I worked through Fiesta Fatal and also so that I have a curated list of my own resources ūüôā Enjoy and thanks to all those that inspired me to get started with this Unit (mostly Allison at Mis Clases Locas with this post).

Quincea√Īera Introduction

  • I started with some of the readings from Martina Bex’s mini-unit on Quincea√Īeras and did activities on the ceremony itself. We did a Movie Talk based on one of the YouTube videos included in Martina’s links.
  • My students are very much into “Baile” so we played some videos of Baile Sorpresa and discussed this feature of a quincea√Īera. We stopped occasionally to evaluate and express our opinions about the dances and I would do some Movie Talk with them as well. Four phrases I introduced them to and encouraged them to shout out as we watched: ¬°Dale Chica! ¬°Padres Por Favor! ¬°Ese es Raro! ¬°Superguay!
  • I told the story of Bailar by Elvis Crespo using some TPRS acting and it went really well. I also used this slideshow. Huge thanks to the Kara Jacobs and all her song activities.
  • I created a comprehension coloring Glyph to go with this mini-unit too but didn’t end up using it. Gotta love snow days in April!


Fiesta Fatal

  • I spent some time front loading the vocabulary by using GimKit and PearDeck Vocabulary Slides. PearDeck was a great one day activity that I really feel helped my students learn the vocabulary and get comfortable with it. GimKit is always amazing. You can read more about that from Maris Hawkins here. In looking back I only created Quizlet sets for Chapter 1, 4-10. For each day we would ready I would choose 2-4 target words, put them on the board and practice them before hand. I’d like to be more consistent with this vocab next year though.
  • Chapter by chapter I followed a lot of the resources and recommendations of Mis Clases Locas.
    • Using some of the images included in Martina Bex’s BINGO activity, I created a Tic Tac Toe card with 9 images from Chapter 1-5. I used this as a presentational assessment. Students came back to me one at a time and described a “tic tac toe” to me in the target language.
    • I let the students read Chapters 4 & 5 independently and then gave them a paraphrased reading quiz. It helped me gauge who was able to read for understanding and who was parroting or just going with the flow.
    • My students really enjoy drawing pictures and then projecting them to talk about them in the target language. We did that when predicting what would happen to Vanesa in Colorado. The drawing predictions gave us an opportunity to play with some different tenses and learn more vocabulary in context.
    • The Chamberlan Perfecto activity included in the activity packet was fun but hard to manage with classes of 15+ students. I had a lot of disengaged students during the Q&A portion of the event so I need to work that out before next year.
    • I like using emojis to help students summarize what they have read. Students did this for Chapter 9 & 10 (included in my slide resources).
    • We tried the Plate Game¬†which was great but I need to simplify my phrases so the image is easier to draw. Many started to draw several small pictures instead of one large image.

Final Assessments

  • I wanted students to be able to sit and discuss the book with others. We did a Conversation Cups practice and followed it up with simultaneous presentations the next day. (I was able to give quick feedback using an Add-on in Forms that was handy too)
  • I brought back the four phrases from the beginning of the Unit (¬°Dale Chica! ¬°Padres Por Favor! ¬°Ese es Raro! ¬°Superguay!)¬†for a presentational assessment. First, we discussed when we would say these phrases in real life. That was a fun 4 corners activity where I introduced “Yo dir√≠a”. Then students had to choose a part from the book in which they would exclaim one of those phrases. They were assessed on their ability to describe the part of the book and expressing their opinion (or why they would say that phrase. I again used the add-on to streamline feedback and the results were great.
  • While I was doing this Unit in Spanish 2, I was using Kara Jacob’s Cintura Unit with Spanish 3. Inspired by the writing assessment that goes with that Unit, I created this writing assessment for Spanish 2, where they had to write their own story similar to Fiesta Fatal but could change some details. This type of writing assessment was great because I could really see comprehension at a lot of different levels.

In finishing this novel with this group of students, I know that I want to start the year off with Frida Kahlo and just keep throwing novels at them all year. They did a great job and had a lot of fun with this book. Thanks to all those that shared resources and I hope my reflections can help anyone thinking about implementing a novel in your classroom too!