Let’s Go to the Movies!


Spanish 3 is working through a movie unit now.  I was gone Monday (no Spanish-speaking subs around me) so had students copy new vocab and do some book activities to get familiar with it then gave them a PQA (Personal Questions and Answers) sheet to expand.

Tuesday we did a Zachary Jones (@ZJonesSpanish) sheet about planning a night to the movies.  I had them expand and say what kind of movie it is, why they chose it, who the stars are, etc.

Wednesday I had students choose a a Spanish-language movie at random from the hat and they researched it and made a movie poster that told what type of movie it is, where it’s from, the actors, the director, a brief plot summary and any other interesting info they found on it.

Thursday for warm up, the students wrote a simple version of the plot of Cinderella.  Then students did a gallery walk of the posters and gathered info from the posters (name of movie, type, one sentence basic idea of plot).  We wrapped up with about 15 minute conversation circle (round 2) which went great.  Students were really into talking about movies and everyone got into the conversation.

My plans to assess the vocab of movies is an oral quiz.  I will give students a sheet with information about a familiar movie in English.   Next they will listen to recorded questions in Spanish from me about the movie.  I’ll ask things such as:  What kind of movie is it?  Will it make me laugh/cry/afraid?  Who are the stars in it?  What’s it about?  Students will then record their answers to the questions.  I’m choosing this type of assessment because I asked myself, what do we do with movies?  We talk about them!  We make recommendations!  We tell people the good parts or the bad parts and advise them if they should go or not.  We find common ground over movies and expand our horizons.  Next week we’ll be doing some practice prepping for this assessment before they do the “real” thing.  I’ll post an update on how this goes!

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH


Accidental CI


Oops!  I think I just accidentally taught a bulk of my class in 100% TL using comprehensible input (CI) and TPRS.  I must confess that I walked into my first hour class not knowing what I was going to teach other than that we were going to review vocab then take a quiz over it.  After that I wasn’t sure how I was going to proceed.  Turns out I spent most of the class using CI to review.  It was fun, the students loved it and did great.

We are learning restaurant and food vocab.  I wanted to review fork, knife, spoon, etc before the quiz because we hadn’t spent much time on it.  I drew them one at a time on the board and had the students tell me what they are in Spanish.  This evolved into an accidental crazy story about a knife dripping with what looked like blood but turned out to be ketchup, a crazy fancy glass that was really a bargain (recycled vocab) and me being broke from paying for my “fancy” glass that I could only afford ketchup for my spaghetti sauce.  One student asked if I was eating alone and this evolved into me being a crazy, broke old lady eating by herself at a restaurant with her gross spaghetti and her fancy glass and plate.  I invited the students to eat with me.  They declined.  😦   We followed this up with a quick round of pictionary in partners using the target vocab we had just practiced.

CI flowed into other parts of the class as well.  I had students play “Piedra, Papel, Tijeras” (rock, paper, scissors)  to decide partners and who would play what role in some activities.  They don’t know the word for scissors and probably don’t remember the word “piedra” on it’s own but by acting it out they knew exactly what to do and even used the Spanish words!

Our warm- up activity was a fill in the blank convo between a client and a waiter with the target vocab missing and a word bank.  They filled it out on their own.  We went though it.  Next I had them act it out with their partner.  I modeled with actions and emotion with the help of my partner “invisible Susie” (who is always by my side and a beloved member of class).  The students then did their own versions with much attitude, emotion and action for the target vocab.

I must say it was one of the most enjoyable classes of the semester and one student remarked “We should just do stuff like this every day.”.  Another said, “Hey!  We’re having a whole conversation all in Spanish!”.  At the end of it all I had about 5 minutes left so we talked, in Spanish, about what we are having for lunch today.  I explained, in Spanish, what a fritter is and it was a nice filler.

To build from one student’s comment, yes, we should do this every day.  Tomorrow I am planning a more intentional use of CI and TPRS.  Today’s “accident” was wonderful.


Finding the Balance


Here we are entering the 4th week of 100% TL.  My how time flies when you’re teaching all in Spanish!  The test scores came out better than I had expected.  I also shifted my focus from perfect grammar to communication for the section in which the students had to write me instructions.  I graded them based on 1) Did I find the correct location?  2) Was I confused by any part of their instructions?  3) Did they include enough vocab (had to have 5 target words) to provide a clear picture of where I was going.  For example, Turn left, your destination is on the north west corner next to the cafe.  A description like that leaves no question of where I should be.  This change in grading focus brings me to my next topic: Finding the Balance.

I am a stickler for proper grammar, always have been, always will be.  I want my students to understand the grammar of a language.  I hold this belief because I firmly believe that if you understand the grammar (conjugation charts, etc) you can apply that to any word thereby opening up your ability to use any vocabulary.  I realize there are differing schools of thought on this and the fact that this was how I learned (and it worked/works for me) doesn’t mean it is how everyone should and/or does learn.  This point is emphasized by the fact that I have some students excelling in this new 100% TL format that didn’t do as well in the mostly English format I was using.

My new quest: to find the balance between grammar focus and communication focus.

I know that some students will not study Spanish past high school.  Their time in my classroom will be their only study of a language other than English.  For those students I want them to walk out of here with a working knowledge of basic Spanish that they will be able to use after high school.  I have other students that I know will go on and continue to study Spanish or another language and I want them to have a strong academic grammatical background.  I can argue that they will get the grammar in college but would like for them to be well prepared for it.  So there is my challenge, satisfy both sides of me (communication and the grammar stickler) and equip my students with a good balance as well.  Here’s how I’m attempting to do this.

Last week we started a new chapter around food and formal commands.  Vocab was easy enough to handle.  Friday we started usted/ustedes commands.  I introduced this by giving students a recipe in Spanish (see materials page for the recipe) with certain words bolded/italicized/underlined and told them to find the meaning.  They worked alone first, then with a partner, then with another group and finally we reviewed as a class.  I then wrote the inifinitive of the verb and the command form and asked them what looked odd (e.g. batir > bata) and they noticed that even though it was an -ir verb it had -ar endings.  We did a few more examples and I then gave them the steps for making a formal command for them to write on notes 1. Go to “yo” 2. Drop the “o” 3. Add the opposite ending.  They had already figured out the opposite ending part of course and I used some yo-go verbs like Poner and Tener to drive home the importance and provide examples of step 1, “Go to yo”.

Today I did a mix of structured CLOZE activities which we reviewed and I worked one-on-one with students who still had some questions.  Next, I had them write a simple recipe in Spanish for mashed potatoes.  This was modeled from one of the structured activities we did.  I could tell that at first the students liked the structure in order to make sure they were doing it right but once they had it figured out, they needed a more fun challenge and in came the mashed potatoes.  They had fun putting their own twists on the recipe (garlic, lots of pepper, no milk, etc) and were super engaged and turned out some great simple recipes.  This is a nice segway into tomorrows activity in which we will watch a stop action video of salsa being made, brainstorm vocab they see, create a list, then build the recipe in Spanish.  I will have them work on their own then with a partner, then check for grammar correctness as a large class by writing some of their steps on the board.  I may have them create the salsa recipes on large sheets of paper around the room in groups of 3-4 as they work.

All in all, I feel like I’m starting to accept that communication is great even when the grammar isn’t perfect and I can still pick one or two things from each chapter to really focus on for grammar.  Like I said, it’s a learning experience for me.  This is all new and I’ll continue to work on finding a balance.  How do you balance these two concepts?  Are there other areas in your teaching you struggle to balance?

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH.

The Honeymoon’s Over


It’s official.  The honeymoon is over.  Today marked the end of the second full week of 100% TL in my classroom.  All and all it was a great week but it is apparent that we’ve entered into the challenging portion of this process.  In my last post I listed my tentative lesson plans for the week.  Here’s how this week ended up:

Monday: I found that students hadn’t completed Friday’s assignment from when I was gone so a good chunk of the day was devoted to that.  Students started working on their giant maps in groups.

Tuesday: Students finished maps then wrote and followed a set of directions from place to place on their map.  Highlight of the week, “I like doing this.  It actually makes sense to me now.” – Student

Wednesday: We had a snow day.

Thursday: We reviewed commands to practice directions and “texted” using white boards to practice our main verbs.  We also labeled our giant maps with the vocab.

Friday: Test day!!!

My Fail Day
I failed this week on Thursday.  I made the instructions too much about me talking and much more complicated than they needed to be.  I should have modeled better using a group of students as an example.  I also should have organized the whole day differently.  Immediately after class I felt drained and discouraged.  We got where we needed to go but it took too long and resulted in too much confusion.  However, I reflected and know how I will avoid this in the future.

We run a shortened schedule on Fridays and only two students finished the test.  Although the test was shorter than other tests it was harder because it required students to complete authentic tasks which was something new and, as we know, takes much more thought than filling in some blanks (drill and fill).  I am going to grade the sections students completed and we will finish the test on Monday.  It was evident that students were a bit frazzled by having to face this sort of exam.  I had great questions from them and could see the wheels turning in their heads as they tried to apply the language to real-life situations.

While I haven’t started grading the exams, I have a feeling the scores might be low.  I feel good about the exam though because it presented real challenges that I faced while living abroad utilizing directions and city places.  Depending on how things shake out, we may end up spending class time going through the exam and correcting it then retaking it or creating skits in some form or another to reinforce this type of assessment.

What I already love about this is I saw students using what they knew.  There wasn’t just one correct answer.  Students could create any answer they wanted using whatever words they knew.  This really let people’s personalities shine through which I can tell they enjoyed.  Just from walking around I can tell you the exams featured: Chuck Norris, “J’s” (Air Jordan shoes), milk, ice cream, golden statues, and lots of celebrity names.

A lot of the students felt challenged by the test.  I don’t want to say “discouraged” because they weren’t upset or down on themselves but I think they got a wake up call on how hard it is to think and function in a second language when you’re just beginning to do that.  I believe that as we continue with this type of assessment, students will become more confident.

In our next unit we enter food vocab and formal commands.  It should be interesting.  Hello realia!  If you’re interested in what the exam looked like, you can find a copy of it on my new Materials page.  Please bear with me as I am a beginning blogger and working on how to post materials.

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH.

P.S. Here are some pictures of the students making maps.  I bought little cars at the dollar store for them to drive around while following directions from a partner.

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Week 2- The First “Exam”


Here’s a run down of my plans for my 100% TL Spanish 3 class this week.

We’ve been working on city locations and giving directions as well as the irregular preterite verbs traer, querer, decir, venir.  I feel as though my students have a good grasp on the verbs because they’ve heard them so much from me last week and I’ve been able to work them into teaching and asking them question using the target vocab.  I’m giving them the chapter “exam” on Thursday.  I am modeling it off of Cynthia Hitz (@sonrisadelcampo) exam she shared in this blog post.  Cynthia, whom I never met but would love to observe someday, has been very kind in sharing advice with me via Twitter as I embark on this journey.  I thought about when students would really need to use this language in the real world and what they would need it for.  From there I created my exam.  Here are the sections.

Listening– Your host mom has left your a voicemail with a list of errands and directions how to get to the places.  Follow her directions and trace your path on the map.  Students will be able to listen and pause the audio as much as they would like.

Writing – You need to leave your host brother directions how to find you.  You will draw two places randomly (a start point and end point).  Leave him a note with instructions on how to get from point A to point B.  To grade this I will follow your instructions without looking at the starting or end point until I’ve followed your directions and will see if I ended up in the right place.

Vocab – Your host sister has come to visit you in Nebraska.  You leave her a map but it’s in English.  Label the following places in Spanish on the map to help her.

Irreg. Verbs – You went to an exciting party last night.  You Spanish-speaking friend texts you the next morning to see how it was.  Respond to his/her texts in Spanish using complete sentences.

This will be a much shorter exam than those I’ve given in the past and a completely different format than the students are used to but I feel it is a more realistic test of their skills.

To prep for this here’s my plans for the week.

Monday-Review what exam will look like.  No surprises in my classroom.  Using shower curtain liners, create a city map with your group (4 people per group)

Tuesday-Practice giving directions.  We’ll do some large class practice first then break into groups.  Using their maps from yesterday each person will write a set of directions and their group mates will have to follow them.  I will then give each group short stories using our target verbs and vocab.  One student will read the story while the others act it out.

Wednesday – Using scratch paper, label your maps one person at a time.  See who can label the most items from our vocab and who can do it the fastest.  May have groups switch maps and repeat.  In groups of two, practice texting each other (using small white boards) using a guide I provided to practice the irregular verbs.  If time allows I may have two students “text” while another two students act out their conversation.

Thursday- Exam day!

Friday- We’ll be working with Belanova’s No me voy a morir from Zachary Jones (@ZJonesSpanish).  Zachary Jones has had a big influence on my teaching as well, inspiring me to work language into the classroom in fun, interesting ways I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.

So those are my plans for the week.  Eventually I’d like to start posting some materials I use on this blog for others to use or be inspired by.  I’ll post at the end of the week and let you know how this week actually went!  My plans tend to change on the fly.

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH

100% TL: Just Add Caffeine


Today marked the end of my first week teaching my Spanish 3 class 100% in TL (Target Language).  Here is some background info on me and my class:

-I commute an hour to school each way every day.
-I have 14 students in my Spanish 3 class.
-I have no TPRS experience or experience teaching entirely in TL.
-I use a “traditional” textbook (Avancemos).
-This is my second year with this set of students.

OK, now that you’ve got an idea of what we’re working with, here’s how it’s going.  I’m going to break this down into “Lessons I’ve Learned (So Far)”.

Lesson #1: 100% TL Requires 100% Energy
It’s no secret that teaching takes a lot of energy.  Teaching 100% TL takes even more energy!  I started out Monday with a lot of excitement and energy.  This carried me through Tuesday.  Wednesday I crashed.  I had no energy.  I was tired.  It was not the best day of teaching.  Today (Thursday) I fueled up with some caffeine.  Today was a great day.  I’m not saying you have to run on caffeine but it sure helps!

Lesson #2: Me using TL = Students using TL
I did not tell my students that they have to use 100% TL (yet).  In fact, I made it clear that I did not expect them to flip a switch and be 100% TL right away.  What I’m finding is that they are speaking much more TL than they ever have!  That happens in the form of them trying to piece things together in their head as they speak one word at a time and them using Spanglish.  A great example from yesterday is, “¿Qué abouto fuimos?” (What “about” fuimos?).  The student wanted to know if he had spelled the word “fuimos” correctly.  Rather than just asking in English, he took what he knew and Spanglished the rest!  This is a student that has always struggled academically and had to work hard for everything he’s learned.  Awesome!

Lesson #3: Student Confidence is Soaring
I’ve seen student confidence soar this week.  I attribute this to the fact that for the first time students are really having to rely on their Spanish skills and they are amazed to see what they can do!  Vocabulary recognition and use has been at an all time high as well!

Lesson #4: Holy Engagement Batman!
Students are much more engaged in class because they have to be if they want to know what’s going on!  We’ve had a lot of laughs from me making mistakes, them making mistakes, my crazy drawings/sounds/actions to help understanding and all kinds of other stuff.  I can say this has been one of the most fun weeks teaching for me.  I overheard a student from one of my Spanish 2 classes (not 100% TL) talking about my Spanish 3 class and that the Spanish 3 students are saying that class goes much faster now.  This is awesome because we are doing way less in terms of actual activities but their brains are way more engaged!

That’s what I have for now.  I started this experiment in the middle of a unit so it will be interesting to see how I approach my next unit differently.  I am fortunate to have such an amazing group of students to go on this journey with!

I have so much to learn!  I’m pretty much winging this entire thing so all my conclusions so far could be delusions!  If you do this or have done this and are willing to help, find me on Twitter @lisajmch.  I’d love to chat and learn!

Until Next Time,
Maestra McH

Simultaneous Excitement and Terror


I just finished teaching my first period Spanish 3 class which consists of 13 juniors and 1 senior.  They are a bright and driven group.  We spent today watching a video and working on listening skills through it.  Afterwards the students were talking about how they can read and write Spanish but still have a hard time understanding it when they hear it.  

This prompted a crazy thought in me.

It was probably the large quantity of caffeine I had consumed 30 minutes prior talking but I proposed something to them.  I asked them to answer yes or no to the following statement, “I want this class to be completely in Spanish”.  They were to vote privately on paper, sí or no.

Before they voted I told them the following things, all in Spanish:
-It will be hard.  You will be frustrated.  You will probably want to do me harm at some point.
-Your head will hurt.
-We will move slower and you will not learn as much “formal grammar”.
-You will learn to understand spoken Spanish.
-I will expect your to speak more in Spanish.

I told them about my experience being fully immersed in Spanish in Mexico.
-I learned more in 6 weeks than I had in the previous 5 years.
-I had the worst head aches ever.
-I was extremely frustrated and overwhelmed.
-I learned.

After this was all said and done.  The students voted yes or no on paper.  No one really discussed it with each other.  They all voted privately on their own.  I had 12 of my 14 students today (I emailed the two that are sick).  As I opened up the votes I was surprised that every single one said “sí”.  I expected there to be at least a few that said “no”.  I’m not sure they know what they’re getting into but I know that they want to learn and they are motivated.

I am simultaneously excited and terrified.  This is going to be as challenging for me as for them.  I’m excited for the challenge and I’m excited to watch these students struggle (in the positive sense of the word) and grow.

If anyone has any advice, please tweet me!  I will need it! @lisajmch  

Stay posted for updates on this adventure!

Until next time,

Maestra McH.