Comprehensible Input, Spanish

To Plan is to Prepare…


July 3, 2018

So today marks the new beginning for this blog. I know at the beginning of last school year I said I was doing CI…and I totally did. For like a day. And then I reverted back to my old methods. This year is for real. After attending Mitten CI, taking multiple webinars (including a Facebook Live session with Martina Bex and Rachel Lucas of Technology for WL Teachers) and doing so much reading on CI, I am now confident to say that this is the year that it is going to happen. I’m not doing traditional CI with storytelling (because, frankly, I don’t have the energy to create stories with every hour almost every day). It’s going to be more of a mashup of CI with traditional learning. Inspired by some colleagues in my district and what I’ve learned from superstars like Martina Bex and Maris Hawkins, I’m going to forge my own path.

It’s going to take some adjustment on both my part and my students’ part, but I think we’ll all be better for it in the end.

Comprehensible Input, Differentiated Instruction, Spanish

CI: This Time It’s For Real!


May 1, 2018

So you may have noticed a change in my name. Yes, I know I said at the beginning of this year that I was going to do CI and that didn’t happen. But this time, it’s for real!

I went to CI in the Mitten and got a crash course in how to start from day one. There were amazing speakers and presenters, like Bryce Hedstrom, Tina Hargaden, and the one, the only, Sr. Wooly! Bryce really helped me feel like this was doable, as a complete newbie. So this summer I am completely retooling everything to help my transition into CI next year be as smooth as possible.

In related news, coming soon, this site will have a new look! Julie Matthews, the brilliant mind behind Mundo de Pepita has helped me create a new logo. I think you guys will really like it! Can’t wait to show you!

I have a lot of work to do this summer, but I’m really excited at what it can bring. I hope you’ll follow me along for the journey!

Comprehensible Input, Grammar, Spanish

Is It Break Yet?


March 22, 2018

So much for my plan to blog once a month. Things have gotten super crazy around here. Spring is starting to “spring” and now that the weather is nicer and my 8th graders are starting to get ready for high school…well, let’s just say their effort has somewhat declined. On top of that, it’s getting closer to Spring Break for us, which means my role as co-advisor of the Talent Show is starting to take its toll since the parent performance and in-school performance is happening next week, the week before break. We’re off Good Friday and that whole next week and I’m sure you understand me when I say that it can’t come soon enough.

So my awesome ideas that I wrote about last time to incorporate more CI stuff has…fizzled out. I’m going to a local CI conference next month (if you’re anywhere near Mid Michigan, you should definitely check out CI in the Mitten!) so hopefully that will renew my efforts, or at least give me a good idea about next year.

I have, however, been incorporating more music and the students are really responding. My 1s have been studying the verb ser (to be), and just for fun I showed them Soy un Cacahuate from Spanish Spongebob. They loved it! Then, more recently we have been studying question words, so I gave them a modified version of this Question Word Song and they can’t stop singing it, no matter how much they groaned when I told them we were going to sing. (“Whatever, you know you like it!” I told them.)

My 2s seem to be enjoying our new entertainment unit where they get to discuss movies and TV shows. They love to reminisce about their favorite childhood cartoons when we talk about dibujos animados. Today they get to learn about verbs like gustar so they can discuss their opinions and use phrases like “me aburre” and “me repugnan” to talk about various types of TV shows and movies.

Compared to last year, this year has been fairly easy. I guess next year will be interesting to see how things change when they are using/hearing the language 90% of the time. I will use English when introducing new grammar concepts, but more often than not, the plan is to go with Spanish.

After finally meeting as a department (for the first time all year), it sounds like most of my colleagues are using CI-esque methods. I should probably follow the flow so that my students aren’t at a disadvantage when they go to high school.

What methods have worked for you? What are you planning on changing next year? Let me know in the comments!

Comprehensible Input, Differentiated Instruction, Spanish, Web 2.0

The Best Laid Plans…


February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine’s Day! Now that I got that out of the way…

I am a creature of habit. I find something that works, and I stick with it. So you may have noticed I haven’t posted lately. Things have been crazy. It’s that time of year (general post-Midterms craziness coupled with a reprise as a co-sponsor of the school Talent Show that I “swore” I wouldn’t do after last year. Long story. But I digress…)

So I had all these great ideas and plans at the beginning of the year. I was going to start CI (Comprehensible Input) and incorporate all of these new resources that I had found over the summer and it was going to be awesome! And then I started, with the best of intentions, to speak to my classes in only Spanish (yes, that was including my 1s)…and then that sort of fell by the wayside.

On the one hand, there’s the old “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” philosophy. But sometimes I get bored and want to switch it up. So I feel like there’s never a “right” time to just go into something different, but at the same time, I want to try something new. But then there’s the evil cycle of me being a creature of habit. And the circle of life continues!

So here I am back at the beginning. I keep telling myself that the next chapter that each of my classes start, I’m going to incorporate some new resources in, like Sr. Wooly. I figure rather than changing everything all at once, it will be easier to gradually introduce new things into my curriculum.

So now I have to keep you posted, which will hopefully increase my accountability! What new things are you trying with your classes? Gimme your ideas!

Assessment, Grammar, Projects, Spanish

Thankful Reflection


November 21, 2017

So today is the last day of school for us for the week before Thanksgiving Break. I thought I would take some time to come up with my professional “What I’m Thankful For” List. And I know this seems to be a common theme with me, but as any good teacher knows, it’s all about reflection.

I am thankful for my ability to reflect on my best and (worst) practices. After the difficult year I faced last year, I am pleasantly surprised (and not to jinx myself or anything, but…) to see that things are fairly smooth this year so far. I feel like I have finally found my “groove”.

One of my previous posts on my Facebook page asked my readers what they would like me to write about. One reader asked for me to write about assessment strategies that won’t take forever to grade but give good feedback to the kids. So, dear reader, here is my best answer to your question.

Any good assessment has a rubric. I find that the more detailed my rubric is, the easier it is for my kids to understand what they need to do to get an A. (We all hope that they use this feedback not just for the A, but for the gaining of knowledge. We can only dream, right?) I try and give as precise feedback as I possibly can. Comments like “Make sure adjectives and nouns agree” or “Watch your subject/verb agreement” is way better than something vague, like “What else?”

Predictably, my 2s are more interested in the specifics of my feedback than my 1s are, but I’m hoping that as the year progresses, my 1s understand how important this specific feedback truly is. (We’re about to start their first foray into subject pronouns and conjugating -ar verbs in present tense. Wish me luck!)

I would love to hear your thoughts as to what you find works well for assessment strategies. I find that rubrics make things so much easier to grade when it’s all laid out in front of you, but I’m sure there are things that I’m either missing or forgetting about. Call me out! What are some of your favorite tips/tricks?

Comprehensible Input, Differentiated Instruction, Grammar, Spanish

Adventures in CI…er, sort of…

Adventures in CI

October 5, 2017

It is now a month into school. I’m not doing a traditional CI classroom model, but I make an effort to speak more Spanish to my students, including my 1s. This has been going well, but I find myself slipping into English more. There are definitely days that I use more English than Spanish, and while I’m not doing traditional CI, I feel like the exposure to the language is making the work itself less intimidating.

My goal is to use more Spanish than English by midyear, but that means I need to use it more on a daily basis. I need to take the “No inglés, sólo español” approach that my high school Spanish teacher did with my class. The only difference would be that my 1s would have less of a language base to work off of, and would probably default to English.

I flip flop between teaching grammar points in English with my 1s but doing all Spanish with my 2s, to thinking about doing all Spanish all the time with both my levels, but I have a feeling that this would lead to confusion with my 1s. I go into English when necessary, but this hasn’t changed my overall teaching method or approach.

I have all these ideas swirling in my head about how my ideal class would be taught, but when it comes down to it, I’m a creature of habit, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But then that gets me thinking, ‘is it actually broke and I’m in denial about it?’

I have been teaching for 14 years and the quality/learning style of students has definitely changed since I first started teaching. I am now competing with YouTube and reality TV for their attention, and just the thought of that makes me so tired! To keep their attention, but still make it fun, engaging and <gasp> educational?! I might as well be a miracle worker!

But then I go back to thinking about my Methods teacher in Undergrad, who I respect and admire: Spanish is fun. Period. I want them to have fun and learn something at the same time. I guess that’s what we all want. But I’m still figuring out how to do that.

For those of you who do more CI-type methods, I would be more than happy to hear any tips/tricks/suggestions of how to transition to a more TL-dense classroom!


Strategies for Next Year: Comprehensible Input (CI)


May 4, 2017

If you read my last blog entry, I am super stoked about a conference I just went to, called CI in the Mitten. It’s all about Comprehensible Input and strategies, tips, tricks, etc. on how to get your students talking. The goal is to teach completely in the Target Language (TL) and have students understand 80% of what they are hearing. There is no direct grammar instruction, simply having students figure out on their own how the language works. It’s supported by Stephen Krashen’s theory of CI.

So after getting super psyched about all the possibilities and even trying it myself as both a student and a teacher, I’m all in for next year! If any of you out there are reading this and are already doing this, I’d be grateful for any and all suggestions/strategies/tips/tricks you could offer me!

Comprehensible Input, Differentiated Instruction, Spanish

Fresh Start


August 31, 2017

Today is my last day of work for this week. Well, at least working while I’m at school. Here in Michigan, most teachers started back to work this week, and we’ll meet our new batch of kiddos next Tuesday after Labor Day.

As you may have noticed, I took a true break this summer and did almost nothing school-related. Unless you count me tutoring as a second job. But, I digress…No blogging stuff (unless you follow me on Instagram. Which you totally should!)

So now it’s back to the grind. I finally have my classroom in order and pretty much ready to go! For those of you who are interested, here’s my wonderful room!

I’ve been lucky enough to be in the same room for all 14 (!!!) years of my teaching career. And yes, I mean I have been teaching in the same room, in the same school, for all 14 years of my teaching career. I call that a win! (And a super lucky break!)

My classes are smaller this year (most of them are 23-29 kids), while my homeroom is my only class over 30 (33 kids). I think this will be a nice break from last year. Plus, I only see my homeroom for 20ish minutes before they go on their way to 1st hour. And then I see most of them again for 3rd hour.

So this year I have decided to go all in with TL spoken in class. 90/10 is my goal. Mostly I’m putting that in writing so I can remind myself when I’m teaching next week (already?!) that that will be the case moving forward. I wanted to give my kids (especially my 1s) a head’s up about what that means for them. Hopefully it will make them more engaged overall since they’ll really have to make sure they understand what’s going on!

So, I’ll definitely keep you updated as to how things go. What new things are you trying this year with your kids? Let me know and keep me posted as the year progresses!

Comprehensible Input, Spanish

Year in Review 2016-17


May 31, 2017

So I’ve seen some “it’s the last week of school” posts from my teacher friends in other parts of the country in the last few days. While I envy them for being on break already, I know they go back earlier than us, so I guess it all balances out. Here in Michigan, we still have about 3ish weeks of school left, but because of an 8th grade trip to Washington, D.C., that leaves next Wednesday, I’ve had to give my Final Exams a bit earlier than in previous years.

While my kids are starting final preps for Final Exams, I thought I’d take the time to check in and let you guys know what has been going on here lately and recap this year, which I already sort of did in a previous post.

So here’s the plan for the last few weeks. My kids (both my 1s and 2s) take their Finals next week Tuesday and Wednesday. After that my classes will probably be smaller as a large percentage of our school’s 8th grade class is going on this trip. I haven’t told them yet, but all we’re basically doing is watching movies in Spanish.

The first movie we’ll watch is Finding Nemo. I’ll put the Spanish language track on with the Spanish subtitles, and then have them watch it, completing this sheet as they go. One of the things my students have picked up on in previous years is that the Spanish language track and the Spanish subtitles don’t always match up. Additionally, they start to pick up on the slang that Crush uses with his surfer talk. When I get the sheets back, I notice them making notes in the margin like “compa=dude”. I’ve also found some really talented artists in my classes. Check it out below!

The end of the sheet asks them to describe their favorite part. In Spanish, of course!

The second movie we’ll be watching is Beverly Hills Chihuahua. This time we watch the movie in English. Because the majority of the movie takes place in Mexico, I have the students take notes on a lined piece of paper. I tell them to divide their paper into two columns: One for new Spanish words they learn, and another for new culture points they learn.

I think the twist on it this year will be that I will tell students that how well they pay attention will determine whether or not I collect it at the end. This forces students to pay attention, do the worksheet, take the notes, and then if they don’t pay complete attention, I make it for points at the end and collect it.

So overall, I think this year went well. As I mentioned in my previous post, there were definitely some bumps in the road and it was a learning experience for all. In planning for next year, I’m going to attempt doing Comprehensible Input (CI). I think this will help my students be more confident conversationalists overall, and encourage more of an immersion culture. I feel that this will also help their listening and reading comprehension skills as well.

Those of you who are following this blog may be recruited for some help. If you have experience in TPRS (Total Physical Response Storytelling) or CI, I may be wanting to pick your brain about things. Things like how to do a Movie Talk, whether or not to read a story like Pobre Ana, or something similar. I know I’ll definitely have to figure out how to do assessments that support CI/TPRS. I got a lot of good ideas at a local conference, CI in the Mitten (see my post here about it), and got some amazing ideas from the presenters there. I also currently follow Martina Bex and Maris Hawkins.

So this is my starting point. I can’t promise another post before the school year is over, but just in case, I leave you with these wise words of wisdom:

“Learning from our mistakes and holding on to our memories help us become deeper individuals with a better sense of who we are and how we choose to live our lives.” –Ron Clark