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.

Student Reflection on Classcraft

I had planned to update my blog this week with a more detailed picture of how we are using Classcraft in my classroom.  While I’m still working on that, I wanted to share something that one of my students recently wrote about Classcraft.  I love that it is in his own words and describes our process in a way that is easy to picture and understand.

Classcraft by definition is “a free online, educational role playing game that teachers and students play together in the classroom.” However I do not believe that the definition I just told you quite captures what Classcraft really is.

The thing is, is that Classcraft is so much more than just any one thing to a person or people. Classcraft is a place where a gamer who doesn’t quite fit in can work side by side and cooperate with a varsity Quarterback on the same level and work as a team. Classcraft is a place where a disinterested student who can’t find the motivation to take time and complete his homework or listen in class can finally have a fun way to learn an otherwise “boring” subject. Classcraft is a place where two girls who maybe aren’t in the same “clique” or do not get along can work towards a common coal (and maybe even become friends in the process). Classcraft is a place where you’re not a Jock, or a nerd, or even the mean girl. It is a place where people forget about the status quo and “the norm” and see their classmates as a level 3 healer who bailed them out so they didn’t have to roll the infamous “Cursed Die” or a level 5 warrior that took a big hit to their HP for you because that’s what teammates are for. And yes, even in some cases as a level 12 mage that stays up way too late completing quests. Classcraft is a place that transforms our classroom from a boring room with a whiteboard to a battlefield where we face other teams in competitions, or a foreign land that we are exploring during a quest. Classcraft can make you or take you anything or anywhere, it really just depends on your imagination.

Classcraft for me personally has been a huge motivator. Instead of procrastinating and waiting till the night before to due homework and projects I know finish the as soon as I can because not only do I get an XP bonus if I do finish multi-day assignments early but if all my other homework is done I have more time to complete other quests that reward me with XP. I also do more quality work because I get more XP if I do. Also by doing quests such as learning Spanish and Spelling Spanish on quizlet I have learned numerous new useful Spanish words that have been a tremendous help on my more recent Spanish assignments.

Classcraft most importantly is a new and effective way to teach kids in an age that students are constantly plugged into technology with their cell phones laptops and videogames. Times are changing and education needs to change with it. We can’t expect new and different generations to learn the same way kids did 50-100 years ago, and in reality our generation is much different from what it was even 15-20 years ago. Classcraft is a proven educational tool that can teach kids in a new and exciting format. Classcraft doesn’t just improve learning it changes it, and for the better.

Thank you to Creed K. for writing this assessment of Classcraft and allowing me to share it.  He did it for the XP but I appreciate it anyway 🙂

Educational Value of Kinetic Typography

I previously wrote a post about creating kinetic typography videos.  I love finding Spanish kinetic typography lyric videos because they A) are attractive and visually pleasing to watch and B) include Spanish lyrics and words so that you can match the Spanish audio with a word.  I have used these videos as supplemental content for a few years.

But this year I wanted to “up the ante”.  I wanted my students to have to make a kinetic typography video of their own–using Spanish songs and Spanish lyrics.  It was a hefty creative task that required some time from the students.  I just finished grading the final products and now I can reflect on the educational value of this project.

Focus on Spanish Lyrics

This type of video is a lyric video, which means the students had to spend a great deal of time with the lyrics of the song.  I did not give them a copy of the Spanish lyrics.  I gave them other lyric video examples that they could copy from or I think some of them just Googled for the Spanish lyrics to the songs.  Regardless, this creation required students to spend a great deal of time working with the Spanish words.  Even if they didn’t know what the words meant necessarily, it was valuable to have them spend so much time immersed in the target language.  I heard a few comments throughout the last few weeks that “I have that word in my song” or referencing that they learned different Spanish words that we didn’t learn in class just because they are used a lot in their song.  This was the main benefit of the project for me: a way to force my students to spend more time absorbed in the Spanish language.

Hearing Spanish Words

In addition to just working with the lyrical text, students had to work with the Spanish audio of the song. They repeatedly had to listen to their song, making them more familiar with the way Spanish sounds.  A few students commented that they can’t hear the original English version of the song anymore without hearing the Spanish lyrics in their head.  And some commented that they listened to it so often the Spanish song got stuck in their head and they kept repeating it.  Even if they didn’t know the direct translation of the audio stuck in their head, having Spanish of any kind floating around the brain is a great learning experience.

Matching Audio to Words

The lyrical text should be matched to the audio.  When students made their videos, they had to make sure the Spanish words appeared in sync with the Spanish audio.  This requires students to do a few different mental tasks at once (always of great educational value).  Students had to listen to the Spanish audio, look at the Spanish lyrical text in their presentation and physically get them to appear together.  This process of audio and visual matching is a great learning activity for them.  It isn’t enough just to have the Spanish lyrics or just to listen to the Spanish audio.  Having to take both pieces and work them together in sync really established a unique learning experience.

Content Creation

Aside from Spanish, a project like this is rewarding just because it allows the students to be content creators: authors of their own learning.  I gave them project parameters, specific benchmarks they were to be graded on but they were allowed to choose their own path of completion.  Some students chose to work together in small groups while others worked alone.  Some created their presentation using Powerpoint and others used Prezi or just IMovie. The finished projects I saw reflected the individual students: I did not receive two identical projects. Each project reflects the individual or individuals responsible for it.  My students that were a little more tech saavy used that to their advantage to create something really innovative.  Students that were less techy produced simpler projects that still met all project guidelines.  Allowing students to be content creators gives them the freedom to publish their own path to learning.

As a teacher, I’m satisfied with that the projected learning outcomes associated with this project were met. I’m proud of the creations my students ended up with and hope they are too.

Content Creators

One great advantage technology gives to students it the ability to take ownership in learning and assessment through becoming content creators.  Students have exposure to many different tools that allow them to customize and create projects for assessment.

The positive thing about this is that students will individually produce their own unique work, revealing a personal style and understanding of the material.  Gone are the days of cookie-cutter projects and strict parameters.  This can also be a struggle for teachers, however.  Teachers receive several different interpretations and projects rather than one standard.

Here is the goal in adopting Student Content Creation:  Teachers set assignment parameters and expectations and access the students meeting those standards using any method they choose.

Here are some example methods my students have used in the past when giving “generic” assignment guidelines:

Essay (Written):  Never underestimate the power of the written word.  Some students prefer to organize their thoughts in essays.  It doesn’t include a lot of visual elements, traditionally, but if content is your main focus, it will work.

Essay (Video):  One assignment I had students do last year required them to do a five part essay addressing specific questions and observations they had following a movie we watched.  I gave them the option of doing a video essay:  recording their verbal answers by recording video of themselves in PhotoBooth.  It was much more informal than the traditional written essay but gave me a very personal account of each student’s understanding.

PowerPoint:  It does it’s job as a presentation tool, allows students to add pictures and make is attractive and easy to read.  Slides cleanly present material.

Prezi:  Think of Prezi as a non-linear, spread out PowerPoint.  Instead of having “slides”, all the material is attractively arranged on a plane.  The presenter tools let you order material, creating zooming effects.  Also easy to embed photos and video content.  It’s a website and a log-in is required.

Poster:  Sometimes a nicely designed poster is the best way to go.  It allows students to be artistic and posters can also be used in your classes in the future.

Blog Entry:  Having the students add their thoughts to an online blog is like doing an essay but it’s an essay they can share with the entire world.  Blogs can be informal places to share general, personal observations related to class, or you can use it as a place to upload and share assignments and project.  Check out our ongoing Spanish 2 Blog here.

Baseball Card:  This works particularly well with personalities.  Students create a baseball card of a figure: picture on one side, stats and important information on the back.

Fake Facebook:  This also works well with personalities.  Students create a Facebook profile, friends and correspondence embodying the character.  Download the PPT Template here Fake Facebook.pptx.

IMovie:  I-Movie can be an attractive way to put together information, to narrate pictures or explain a process though demonstration.

Glogster:  Glogster is an online program that allows students to create online posters.  These posters (or Glogs) include text, animation, sound, video and hyperlinks.  You have to have a an account to create a glog.  Check out this Glog on the Human Brain:

VoiceThread:  VoiceThread is an online program where students record narrations with pictures.  It moves like a slideshow but can be very effective for comprehension activities, definitions and demonstrations.  See our comprehension activity with a movie we watched in class:

Timeline:  Create a timeline using an online timeline creator like  Timetoast allows students to include photos and extra descriptions.

Twitter Notes:  Students create a list or a shot of recent Tweets that correspond to a class topic or trending topic.

YouTube Playlist:  Students create a playlist of videos from YouTube that are related to a class topic.

Infographics:  Students create attractive InforGraphic of information using a variety of online sources.  Infographics bring together text and pictures in a way that pleasingly and easily conveys information.  Sites that help create Inforgraphics:, and a complete list – –

Twittering Students

My Spanish 2 classes have recently concluded a unit about the latin dances. We studied several different dances, talked about their characteristics and attempted to identify the dances. As a concluding project, I created a few different project options for my students to choose from. Since Dancing with the Stars is both a popular show that deals with this subject matter and since Twitter is becoming increasingly popular with my students, I created a project which combined the two.

Students could Live Tweet about Dancing with the Stars, commenting about the dances. It isn’t a project that involves a lot of higher order thinking or application of class concepts and skills, but it’s a project that connects our class material with “the real world”. I feel like that is rewarding enough. When teachers often complain about getting students to pay attention to class material for 50 minutes in class, it’s exciting to see them focused on the class material at home.

This is just another example of how technology can build a bridge connecting the classroom with the real world of students.!/KaitlynGebel/status/55094310789591040!/CassieVohsman/status/55311217014747136!/KaylaWilsonn/status/55089909559595008!/alex_place4/status/55060330329542656!/Gjdmann/status/55058627446312960

Popplet Mindmapping

I’ve had my students dabble in mindmapping before with vocabulary development.  I like them to think about how words are connected and hopefully those connections make the vocabulary more meaningful, thus they remember it.

At first glance, I thought that Popplet was going to be just another word web/mindmapping tool, similar to Inspiration or a few other word maps available online.  I discovered the following things while using this application:

The Popplet Bubble

1. Easy to use and maneuver: Each popplet, or tiny box, comes with very easy to understand options.  In each box, you can add TEXT, or draw a PICTURE or upload MEDIA.  After creating the content in one popplet box, you simply drag the grey connector dots out to where you want to make another popplet.  This grey line connects the boxes, thus building a very large web.

2. Media: When using technology, you have to ask yourself, “Why is this methodology better than paper and pen?”.  I like to justify my technology use.  I’ve had students make mindmaps before on paper and they are just fine.  But Popplet lets them add PICTURES and YOUTUBE videos to the map.  In a recent vocabulary section on adjectives, students took pictures of the words strong, beautiful and weak, and were able to incorporate those pictures into the map.  And who doesn’t love YouTube?  Students searched for funny videos that would showcase their Spanish vocabulary words.  For example, many students looked on YouTube to find pictures of clumsy people for the Spanish word “torpe”.  Or they used their favorite YouTube video (the Waffles video by Julian Smith was very popular) and tried to see how many Spanish words they could use to describe that one video.  Hands down this was the biggest plus for me and for the students.

3. Customization: Each popplet bubble can be made a different color, so students could color code the different levels or categories of their web.

4. Sharing: Popplet includes nice sharing options for a free application.  Students used the embed code to embed their projects on our classroom site at Edmodo.  They also used the links if they wanted to post it to their blogs.  You can invite others to share and comment on your Popplet and also post it directly onto Twitter or Facebook.

My students worked on these Popplets using the mobile laptops in my classroom.  Once they got started, you could have heard a pin drop.  There was a such a hushed enthusiasm to work that I haver NEVER experienced before.  They were very captivated by it all and worked so hard, so fast and with such effort.  I will definitely be revisiting this site again and I consider my use of technology well justified in this case.


Right now, I’m unable to embed these lovely Popplet’s onto this WordPress blog for easy viewing, but I can include the links.  These are student created projects.  I gave them the bare minimum of requirements and they went with it.  Charlie Sheen was very popular in these, by the way.  Please check them out, share them and enjoy using Popplet! (I will be adding more examples in the next few days).

(Thanks to José Picardo for his inspiring ideas!  Visit his site @

Vocabulary Podcasts

Learning vocabulary takes a certain amount of time and repeated practice.  I can repeat words with the kids over and over again in class and I can also highly suggest they go over the words themselves.  Still I haven’t ever felt the students enjoy the repeating or fully embraced that concept.

I decided to have my students make vocabulary podcasts: recording of them pronouncing the words in Spanish, defining the word in English and then spelling the words letter by letter.  I had two goals.  1) Have them review the pronunciations and definitions of the words while creating the podcast, and 2) have the students create an audio file of the vocabulary words that could be downloaded and accessed on a portable electronic listening device (i.e., Ipod).

This was the first podcasting experience for nearly all of my students.  We experienced some equipment problems and time issues, but overall the assignment was a success.  The students all submitted their groups podcasts to a class created account on Podomatic.  From here, students are able to download any of the podcasts as a file that can be added to an Ipod or mp3 player.  They can also click a button and subscribe to these podcasts through Itunes.

Podcast Spanish 1 5.3

Today I showed the students how to access the podcasts and suggested that they use these assignments to prepare for next week’s quiz.

Please visit our Spanish Podcasts through Podomatic at:

CrocoDocs Online Annotation Program

Another great online find!  A free online program called CrocoDocs allows users to upload documents, PDF’s, photos, PowerPoints, etc.  These items can then be shared with other users and you and other users can comment, highlight and annotate the material.  It’s a great collaborative editing tool as well as a discussion board.

I recently used this with my Spanish 3 class.  I put up our notes on Colombia and asked the students (working in groups of 2) to enhance the notes by adding a piece of quality, academic information to each slide.  For example, on the slide where I introduced the flag of Colombia, students added information about the meaning of the colors, the date of independence and information about the constitution.  After they are done adding their information, I can download the new annotated document with all of the new information.

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I think that this program could be majorly useful in classes where proofreading takes place or any kind of collaborative reviewing.  In this program, your comments just show up as suggestions rather than actually editing the information.

Students are required to have their own username and password to use Crocodocs.  I set-up 10 generic accounts for my students to use and I think it worked very well.  I had originally planned for the assignment to last 1 and 1/2 class periods (about 70 minutes total) but I underestimated how fast my students work with technology.  Most groups were done in about 30 minutes.  I’m pleased with the results and will be using this program again in the future.

Map Making and City Investigations

My Spanish 3 students have been learning about places in a city.  Eventually in this unit, they will be learning how to give directions and read directions.  A map making activity seemed like a logical extension activity and I thought about how I could use modern technology to enhance that basic lesson.

I played around with a website called CommunityWalk where users can make maps using the GoogleMap satelitte images.  There is no log-in and no software necessary.  I researched about 25 cities in the United States: each was at least 25 miles from a major metropolitan area and each city had a Hispanic population of 50% of higher.  Students each chose a different city and looked for real life places in these cities.  For example, they had to find a hair salon, or peluqueria, in Odessa, TX or Salinas, CA.  This real world application made the map activity a little more relevant and I think made an impression.

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The maps that my students created are marked with Spanish vocabulary words of the places in a city we have been studying.  We will be using these maps later in the unit when they learn how to give directions.  They will be giving real world directions, navigating through the streets of Haverstraw, NY and Hollister, CA.

Spanish Classroom Blogs

I’ve been working to create some classroom blogs where students can share work and things that they have learned.  Once you get the hang of this blogging thing, it goes really smooth and I think the students will enjoy it.  I hope anyway.  🙂
As the school year stars, hopefully these pages will be filled with photos and comments and lots of stuff to see.  Please stay tuned and visit.
Please visit the following links: