Conversation Cups Assessment

I’ve really enjoyed doing simultaneous presentations with speaking practice in my Spanish 2 and Spanish 3 classes but something that I’ve done recently with Seesaw is also working out well. I’ve done Conversation Cups both as a formative assessment and a summative assessment of interpersonal communication.

For Conversation Cups, I create a list of discussion questions in Quizlet, cut them out and put them in a cup. Students sit in small groups and use the questions as discussion prompts. I usually have them record their group conversations in Seesaw so that I can provide feedback.

This week students did the Conversation Cups as a station activity (formative assessment) and then again two days later as a summative assessment. I like to level the groups by skill level so the conversation is balanced but sometimes it’s nice to see what happens when random students get together.


Reading Assessment & Interactive Google Slides

I’ve reflected in the past on using Google Slides as Hyperdoc activities.  This morning I graded reading assessments that were completed using drag and drop activities in Google Slides and I’m excited about the ease of the activities and the skills I was able to assess.

This week I did a lecture on M-11 and the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004. The assessment for this kids at the end of the week was to read and comprehend statements and key vocabulary words. The 4 slide assessment included matching vocabulary to pictures, matching up sentence fragments to create complete statements and matching emojis with selected statements. The end result gave me a great assessment of the student’s ability to comprehend written phrases.

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Although the sentences could be in any order, I looked for color combinations to let me know if the students correctly matched the sentences. 

They enjoyed the ease of the drag and drop elements and I enjoyed the ease of the grading. I color coded boxes so that I could easily compare correct answers. For anything that was not looking correct, I changed the line color to red and made it bigger.

Although these sentences could be listed in any order, I looked to make sure the color combinations were correct. I highlighted in red anything that is incorrect.I would encourage you to play around with drag and drop and color in Google Slides to simplify your assessments. It’s a great way to go digital with assessments and the students really enjoyed this method. I’ll put a copy of the assessment before. If you are interested in this Unit let me know and I can do a write-up and share the lecture, station activities and discussion prompts.

El Amante y el Desacuerdo

One of my most popular CI units in the last two years has been the Unit where we discuss “desacuerdos”. This year I tweaked it a little bit to incorporate the fabulous Nicky Jam and the results were immediate and engagement high.

I used this lesson in Spanish 2 right after the introduction of irregular past tense verbs “fue” and “vio”. One day the kids played Nicky Jam’s “El Amante” during Cantaninja. I was preparing for my traditional storytelling intro to “desacuerdo” in the next week and while watching the video, fireworks went off. THAT video would make a great MovieTalk introduction to desacuerdo. I scraped the old story-asking script and created a new unit.

I began by introducing the targets, circling and discussing them with personal details. We talked about types of disagreements, what happens, how do you deal or resolve, etc. The next day we did a MovieTalk with images from “El Amante”. The past tense targets fit in so nicely and I was able to introduce them to some new vocab words along the way. They picked up a lot through context. We then watched the video. Some content in the video may not be suitable for all levels. There is the implication of domestic violence and some language. My students loved it…especially the ending which gave me the opening to tease the future tense.

Over the next two days we continued with storytelling and retelling activities:

  • Back AtCha
  • Blind Retell
  • 8 Essential Events
  • Collaborative Mural
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The collaborative storytelling mural my students did for El Amante (using the interactive whiteboard)

The targets were hit and the story retold. Then we spent a day analyzing the actual lyrics and doing a Coro with the chorus. We also continued to listen to the song throughout these days too and also did a Lyrics Training as a class. I created a Goosechase to have the students create Freeze Frame images of key phrases. I used those phrases in a Listening Assessment later that week. I also made a cloze Reading Assessment based on the story too and administered that through PearDeck.

Another one of the most fun activities we did while analyzing the lyrics was a version of #Booksnaps which I called Palabras en Escenas. We had a large Google Slide deck (using the amazing Roster to Slides add-on) where each student had to create one slide which depicted part of Nicky Jam’s lyrics and how they were applicable in other situations. Students got creative, showcased their own pop culture loves and used images and Bitmojis to reflect meaning. It was a quick activity that produced some great connections.

The music based CI lesson went so well that I’m trying to figure out what to do next. At this same time I also did “No Soy como tu Crees” with Spanish 3 as a tie in with La Llorona de Mazatlan. I can tell Nicky Jam was a hit through as he keeps being requested for Cantaninja…and several students downloaded “El Amante” and have it on their current playlist. Music + CI for the win!

Almost forgot my Pop Culture interpretation of El Amante con Jim y Pam 🙂


Google Tools to Assess and Provide Feedback

Since making the shift to standards based grading, I’ve wanted to make sure I communicate expectations and give feedback that fosters growth. My goal is to move students along on the path to proficiency. With each assessment, I want to show students what proficiency looks like and provide them a pathway to advancement.

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Google Form with checkboxes of assessment criteria and checkboxes for feedback. 

Recently I had presentational assessments in Spanish 2 and decided to build a Google Form to organize data. The Form had checkboxes related to our specific proficiency standard criteria. Then I included some feedback checkboxes and an open place for me to write comments too. I filled out a form for each student while assessing.


So then I had a Google Sheet of data. Cool. How could I get this and deliver this to my students? I tried about 5 different tools and then finally fell in tech-love with a Google Sheet add-on called formMule.


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Google Sheet of data from Google Form.

In order to get this data to the students, I needed to copy in their emails into the sheet (using an easy alphabetic sort copy and paste).

The add-on formMule will send a template email using the data in a Google Sheet.



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The formMule email template

The add-on walks you through the process nicely. I created a template for the email I wanted sent to the students. It uses the merge tags from the Google Sheet and I just placed the info in there the way that I wanted.

When I clicked send, I wasn’t 100% sure what was going to happen. But the emails went through and they looked exactly like what I wanted. I was happy to get the feedback back to the students in digital form. (I was even happier when a student validated me later that day.)




Interactive Google Slides as Hyperdoc

Recently Kristine Keefe wrote a guest blog on Maris Hawkin’s site about the amazing uses of Google in the classroom. It really got me excited about the possibilities with assessments and different visual activities that are possible by integrating Google Drawings and Google Slides into the classroom.

Typically when I create a Hyperdoc, I use just a Google Doc and include hyperlink or embedded activity elements. For an upcoming Hyperdoc I created to review different tenses and information from the beginning episodes of Internado, I decided to make a Google Slides Hyperdoc.

One thing I already like about the Google Slides Hyperdoc vs. my traditional Google Doc is that it is easy to organize and navigate. I can easily flip to the slide that I want to see—AND the information is visible at a quick glance in the sidebar view. I can easily see if students skipped any steps without having to scroll through a 3 page doc. With Google Slides, I have some added design elements that I enjoyed playing with too. I could color code different sections and create some cohesiveness with design and organization that is not possible with a Google Doc.

The best part about Kristine’s suggestions and using Google Slides is that you can easily create drag and drop elements for interactive opportunities. I used to be able to do this by inserting a Google Drawing into a Google Doc, but it’s so much easier and more intuitive with a Google Slide.  I can create activities where students drag colored text boxes that look like buttons. There is something engaging about dragging and dropping vs. typing answers that gives Hyperdocs a nice element.

Here is a copy of my Internado Tense Review Hyperdoc. It is based on information from Season 1 Episodes 1-4.

In the coming weeks I plan on making listening assessments and reading assessments with Google Docs. If you are interested, check back here and I might do a write up on those.


Classroom Jobs in the Foreign Language Classroom

When I used to use Classcraft, I loved that I created a beginning routine to each class. For a variety of reasons (mostly because I didn’t want to kill its novelty) I had to find a way to copy that feeling into my other courses. I needed a way to begin class and build structures roles. Inspired by the work of Bryce Hedstrom, I investigated the power of classroom jobs.

I’ve done classroom jobs for two years now and I don’t see myself going back. With them, my class has a structured, quick beginning and predetermined classroom responsibilities. I tinker with the number of jobs and the different roles occasionally. Here is what I currently have:

Paper-passer-outer: this person is the busiest most weeks. This person passes out all materials and passes back any completed work I have. It’s nice to have a person I just hand things to so that I can focus on talking and engaging the students in our lesson objectives versus doing clerical work.

Attendance: this is not the official class attendance, as I still do that through our online system but I keep a binder in the back of the room with rosters. The attendance taker marks anyone who is absent and reports that info to me. It’s helpful and it keeps the students accountable for each other. We’re a small school, so many times kids know who is absent already because the student was missing in an earlier class. It’s faster to have them just tell me.

Pledge Leader: we begin each class with the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. It’s routine and short and requires standing and speaking. I will never argue with those objectives. The pledge leader is instructed to say get the student’s attention and starting the pledge as soon as the bell rings. This gives me a quick minute to gather myself from greeting the students in the hallway to diving into our objective of the day.

Trash Person: often an underutilized person but I keep the job “just in case”. This person reorganizes desks and chairs and keeps the floor clear of debris.

Social Media Rep: sometimes I hand my phone or other device over to student (trust!) and give them access to our class social media accounts (double trust!). I really never worry; since I know who has it at what time, I know who I would punish if necessary. Some kids wish to document nothing. Some are clever and better at using social media to promote what we are doing better than me. I’d like to do even more with Instagram or Snapchat in the future. I have some ideas so stay tuned. (Check out my post on using social media in the classroom)

Timekeeper: paving my lessons is something I am working on. I’m often too fast and jam too much into a day. The timekeeper is a way to monitor myself. I review the agenda at the beginning of class and tell the timekeeper to “let me know when we have x minutes left” or “if we’re not doing this by ____o clock, stop me”. I noticed that even though I’ve always written our agenda on the board, the emergence of the timekeeper really makes the students aware of our daily activities. They usually check to see what we will be doing now. Also the timekeeper just helps remind me what time class ends. We have shortened classes on Wednesday and you think by know I would know what those times are, but you’d be wrong.

Cantaninja: I like the power of the Cantaninja. I like assigning it to a specific person too. Read more about the power of Cantaninja here.

Judge: this person is second in command. They make choices, lead others, run activities, etc. They are the “final answer” if the group has to decide anything. I like that this person isn’t always my best student; in fact it’s usually better when they are a student that typically doesn’t engage. The role requires engagement, so if you are assigned to that role, you have no choice but to be a part of the action.

I use popsicle sticks with student’s names to mark who has which job. Every two weeks I rotate the sticks and add new ones in. The sticks are color coded with the classes.

I randomly rotate the jobs every two weeks. One week seemed too short and caused more chaos and confusion. Two weeks in a role feels good. At the end of two weeks, students get “paid”. I use a punch card reward system where students need to earn 10 punches to redeem a reward.

Some students are overly ambitious about their jobs and some are less so. The overall balance is good though. Sometimes the Cantaninja refuses to use their power (or the judge vetoes the use of their power) because they hate Cantaninja. The class deals with it. Sometimes the Cantaninja only plays “Soy Yo” for two straight weeks. The class deals with it.

Overall the jobs create an engaging environment that is different than most other high school classrooms. It helps build a community because different roles must, at a minimum, acknowledge others. It lessens my workload during class a bit and also keeps me efficient.

Read more about classroom jobs from Bryce Hedstrom.


Instagram & SnapChat to Share Information

I go through phases with this blog but I’m really trying to focus on it more in 2018. But this blog is not the only way I’m using technology to reach out, connect and share information with other teachers and parents.

I’ve had a SnapChat account for a few years. I used to use it as an alternative to turning in assignments traditionally. I have less of a focus on assignments today but still use the application to receive things from the students. Today, I mostly use SnapChat to communicate and share events that happen in class. I take videos and pictures, caption in and add it to our story. Sometimes it’s things I want the students to know and sometimes it’s just sharing what is happening in the room. I’m happy that parents are connected with it and interact with me too. They have commented that they enjoy seeing their child in class and what they are doing. Recently I took video of a student during his most recent speaking presentation and sent it to his mom, which she really enjoyed. You are welcome to check out our SnapChat @espanoldhs.

During the past few months I’ve done a lot of work surrounding George Couros and Innovator’s Mindset. (Highly recommend the blog for anyone interested in 21st century learning and innovation in education) He had prompted the use of social media sites like Instagram so I decided to revisit it and see if I could maximize it’s power. I’ve really enjoyed using Instagram this year to share and document things that the students are doing.

You may want to follow or check out the Instagram for quick activity summaries of things we are doing in class. I sometimes find it easier to just take a few quick pictures and caption what is happening versus writing a traditional blog entry.

One thing I’ve been doing this year with Instagram is highlighting students or groups that I am proud of. I began the year by just posting images but (again) after listening to George Couros, decided it would be powerful to actually record me actually confronting the student(s) and telling them that I am proud of them. It’s highly uncomfortable for me but it’s been a valuable experience.

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Watch the video post here:

I have the Instagram setup to auto post on Twitter as well (using IFTTT). I still use Twitter (@espanoldhs) too but I focus my during-the-day activity on Snap and Insta. I’m so happy for the connections I’ve built using these applications and look forward to all the possibilities ahead.


Maravilla: Wonder Projects in the Foreign Language Classroom

Prompted by a post by John Spencer, I knew I wanted to end 2017 in an engaging way. In my Spanish 2 classes, I had the perfect opportunity to have a week and a half open for a Wonder Week/Genius Hour type activity. All semester I’ve been focused on creating authentic opportunities for students to be creators and architects of their own learning. I knew what I wanted to do but wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to execute it. In fact, I had back up Spanish 2 lesson plans sketched out because I didn’t know if this was going to go anywhere.

Now that I’m staring at the results and reflecting on the process, I can share with you our journey and how valuable a time it was.

Una Semana de Maravilla: The Journey of Wonder Week

Day One: Curiosities

I had spent a lot of time looking through Laura Sexton’s reflections on Genius Hour and felt that the the most important part was to do a strong introduction and hook to generate some ideas and spark passion. Based on some of Laura’s prompts and our own unit on entertainment we just finished, I created a PearDeck where the students had to DRAW their responses to some questions. I only have them 3 minutes and then we discussed (and circled with PQA) some of the student responses. We got some good repetition and a fun discussion.

As I started to slide into the investigation project, we watched a TED talk and a few other clips I had seen from a PL class I took with George Curous. The idea here was to show them possibilities that young people can do and to inspire them.

I gave students a brainstorming sheet with some sentence starters that we would refer to for the next week. Their brainstorming assignment was in English and I wanted them to think of three topics or categories that interest them and think of questions that they have about each of these topics.

This was a very full Day One. If I had it to do over again, I would split it into two days. The CI we got from the PearDeck was super valuable and I could have spent a class period on that alone—-probably should have. I definitely cut us off short so that I could intro the brainstorming.

Day Two: Questions

I brought us back on Day Two with a pep talk from Kid President on changing the world. They somewhat laughed at my suggestion that they could change the world but couldn’t argue when I said it was possible.

Around the room I had 10-12 large posters with topics written on them: Art, Technology, Sports, Human Relationships etc. Then I gave them 10 minutes to walk around and write and brainstorm questions they can related to these topics. At first they weren’t sure but seeing other people’s questions on different posters really launched them into thinking of more questions. I had two empty posters with no category and students were encouraged to think of questions that wouldn’t fall into any category there too. By the time my three classes were done, they generated nearly 180 questions on a wide variety of topics.

We discussed how all learning begins with questioning. Their task today was to think of something they want to investigate and come up with THREE questions they are curious to know the answers how.

Foreign language confession: at this point I break from the target language. The questioning done today and the investigation to follow is all in English. Perhaps a breach of FL “best practice” but I shifted my focus to general “learning” for this portion of the project and would pick up FL for the reflections at the end.

Students submitted their three (or more!) questions to me in classroom and I responded by asking at least 3 more questions related to their questions. This was 1) my attempt to guide some students that I knew were going to get stuck, 2) expand the focus of students looking only for basic information and 3) show my natural curiosity in their investigation.

Their homework was to #neverstoplearning about their topic for the next 48 hours. They would ask me questions about “How should we answers? Do you want us to write things down?” and my answer was the same: I want you to learn for the next 48 hours. Whatever that means to you—-just never stop learning. If you think you are done—you are not. Keep investigating for 48 hours. Some did not like this response but it was one of the most valuable things I think I did to encourage them in their investigations.

Day Three & Four: Investigation

I was gone on a professional day so students had freedom to explore and learn. While I wasn’t in the classroom, they were sharing their insights with me through classroom. I asked them to fill me in on the process and this was a rewarding day. To hear from them during the inquiry process was great. There were a lot of discoveries and surprises and I was eager to wrap this up with them and let them share their learning.

Day Five: Yo Tengo Maravilla Presentation

Welcome back to the target language! Remember those sentence starters and phrases I introduced a while back. Well, today it was time to put those into practice. We had a quick informal sharing of our topic information in the target language and then I shared a presentation template with the students.

Based on their research, I wanted them to generate a list of 10 vocabulary words associated with their learning, one phrase that shares their wondering, one phrase of what they learned and one personal reflection about the project and/or their learning. Within the presentation they could also use English for supportive details and extra information.

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This was a great guide and I’m happy with the FL tie-in. It is not much but my goal is to increase their familiarity with these reflective phrase starters so this was a good way to accomplish that. The vocabulary I thought was important and it had two unforeseen benefits. One, we had a discussion about proper use of translators and dictionaries and how to use them. I said that obviously they were going to need to look things up but wanted them to do so responsibly. This gave me the opportunity to teach them how to do this.

Secondly, I was surprised how the personal vocabulary really helped the students build their own skills. The day before break we did a non-wonder-week related game about our “Palabra Más Impresionante” (the vocab word we are most impressed that we know) and a few students used these vocabulary words as their example. And they were words that I didn’t know (I’m not up to date on my fishing and lure terminology) but these kids were able to use the vocabulary correctly. Very impressive moment for me.

Final Day: Sharing

We were up against a holiday break but I know that it’s important for the students to share their information. I wanted this to be shared with other teachers since it is such a cross-curriculum activity, so I had them record their investigative experience in English in a FlipGrid.

Hear our learning here!

I love FlipGrid because you get to hear the reflections of the students in their own words. You can reply and share with a global audience. All learning should be shared with a global audience and I’m happy to share ours with you. If you have a moment, please listen to what they learned and share feedback.

If I were to do it again, I would do something bigger as a sharing component. I wanted to do a gallery walk in Spanish with those presentations and maybe a small group IPA/speed dating activity.

I think that I will do something similar again at the end of the year or maybe 3rd Quarter and then I’ll be able to use some more of these ideas. In the meantime I’m really grateful that I didn’t have to resort to my back up plans and instead had an engaging and meaningful end of 2017 with my Spanish 2 class.


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.


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.


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.