New Year’s Reflection #5 – Plans for 2nd Semester

One day more! It has been a great ride reflecting over this last week of my winter break, and with this fifth post, I have reached my New Year’s goal. For the remainder of the semester I will stick to my once a month goal that I set in September (but perhaps I can manage two shorter posts – so they will not be so long).

In this last post, I am going to set some goals and thinking about my three classes for the rest of the semester. I am sure I will accomplish most but this will be similar to how I plan with webbing; I brainstorm and web many ideas for units and courses and only some of them get developed or used.

Overall I am going to remember that Intermediate language is messy with regard to accuracy but if the message is there and they are communicating they are meeting the main goal! I hope to also strike the balance of fun and academic in order to help students reach meaningful communication.

Also in all levels, I will continue using weekly expressions/passwords of the week, which I have done faithfully thus far and these expressions have been infused in communication throughout the whole year. I do also like greeting my students at the door each day.

Spanish IV

  • It is a goal to use improvisation and theatre games with students to improve their spontaneity while speaking. In order to help move them along the intermediate level, I would like to practice more with more ungraded activities and contexts using problems and I CAN statements.


  • I will start the semester off finishing up a bit of ideas from the former Crime and Punishment Unit with a song and story around “No llores mamá” about a repenting gang member (on this Youtube video, turn on the closed captioning). We will also play a few rounds of MAFIA or what I call PANDILLA. Martina Bex explains the game here.  


  • During the Cuba and Revolution Unit, I would like to seek out a Cuban speaker, who would share their story with students. This unit also includes reading Chris Mercer’s La Casa Dividida published by TPRS Books, the film Viva Cuba, other texts and videos, and a Socratic Seminar.


  • I will continue to do weekly Choice Homework assignments. As a conference junkie, I was fortunate to see a Choice Homework presentation by bloggers Laura SextonSara-Elizabeth Cottrell and Bethany Drew* in 2014 and since I have made it work for me and my students. Currently my Spanish IV students must complete one or two tasks a week in one of the six categories: speaking, writing, reading, listening, structure, or vocabulary. I try to coach students to complete something very meaningful to help their Spanish. So for example if I see them using an aspect of grammar incorrectly, I would suggest that they find a tutorial on the topic and write a few sentences using it. My Choice HW ideas, which are a compilation from many including the ACTFL 2014 presenters, can be found here and on my resource page.
  • Edit:   I originally had Amy Lenord’s name attached the above presentations which was my mistake.  I still want everyone to know about Amy Lenord‘s blog  because I have learned a lot from her over the years and she has inspired me also.


Spanish III

Thematically we teach about Rites of Passages, Personal Responsibilities, a new Environmental Responsibilities PBL, and an Issues of Immigration Socratic Seminar.

So here are some of my ideas going forward.

  • As I already pledged, I will bring back Free Reading as an integral weekly piece.


  • Last semester, we began watching EXTRA because I think watching a comprehensible series has great value. For each episode I am requiring them to use and make word connections by exploring related words from a word from the episode. I believe that students should be exposed to word connections and think about what are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, antonyms, synonyms, and expressions that use a given word. Will this lead to acquisition? – Probably not, but could it help build vocabulary, build stronger reading abilities in making connections to other words, and how to appropriately use a dictionary or, I think it does. So far, we have just done activity as a class with pairs of students each looking up one of the aspects mentioned, I will have to see when and if I think this could be done individually and for homework. A blank template and an example can be seen here.


  • One piece for the Rites of Passage unit will be when I will co-construct an ongoing Wedding Mystery story context with students. I will try to get all students involved by having a cast of about 12 student actors and the rest of the students will have class job responsibilities. I have developed this for many years and I will publish some of the material when they are ready.


  • Supporting a district initiative, my colleague and I have been working on an Environmental context project applying the standards of Project Based Learning. Together students will create video products that describe and provide solutions (from many lenses) to an environmental issue in a Spanish-speaking country. One piece that will be very important for the success of this project is that students do not use Google Translate to express themselves. We are providing them a lot of language structures that will help them accomplish their I CAN statements and tasks and with careful monitoring I hope we will not make students feel they must use sentence translation with the help of Google.


  • Students in our AP Spanish and Spanish IV classes will view these products and give their opinions and feedback on the content. By having Spanish IV students be the audience, we are embedding this new theme into Spanish IV this year and if it goes well, we are creating a pinnacle experience for both levels. The PBL experience will also provide an avenue to teach about Costa Rica to all of our Spanish III students as we are preparing for our 2nd Costa Rican Immersion trip during spring break of 2019.


Spanish II

  • This summer I purchased Scott Benedict’s wonderfully developed Spanish II Immediate Immersion lessons and curriculum. I have not had enough time to sit down and really look through the wealth of resources there, so that is a goal this semester. For more information check out


  • We just finished reading Fiesta Fatal, and I would like to use Nelly Hughes’ Breakout EDU for it. This will be my first Breakout EDU with the official Breakout box so fingers-crossed that it goes well. You can check it out on her TPT site: Comprendes Mendez SpanishShop.


  • I think I am going to present one of my favorite lessons, which is the windmill story with Don Quijote and Sancho Panza. I have done this lesson many times but never in Spanish II. I have been thinking about a few connections that I could do with regard to Spain, Quijote’s Route, and travel. It also will support my need to work with 3rd person singular and plural in the past tenses more (see my post from January 1, 2018).


  • There are many staples that I have been doing for many years that I will continue to use this year:
    • Señor Wooly’s “No voy a levantarse”
    • Stories about getting ready for a day, date, and dance
    • Cinderella story-tell with this student song favorite: “Eres mi Cenicienta” by Voz de Mando
    • We then spend a lot of time dedicated to travel by air, bus, train, being in a hotel, and Fluency Matter’s Los Baker van a Perú. In December, I experimented with Michelle Kindt’s ideas for using Literature Circles that I saw at NTPRS 2017. Her system worked very effectively and I cannot wait to get to try again with this novel in the spring.


I am going to stop now because I feel I have plenty to get me started and ready for next week. Of course because of the Facebook groups, Twitter, PLCs, TPT, Señor Wooly Week, conferences, and conversations, there will be so many more ideas that come my way or ignite a new spark in my mind. Thanks for reflecting with me over these five 2018 posts and have a great 2nd semester.

Gary DiBianca

4 thoughts on “New Year’s Reflection #5 – Plans for 2nd Semester

  1. Michelle Metcalfe

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas and reflections Gary! I will also be using Casa Dividida later this term with my Spanish 3 IB class and look forward to hearing more about your Socratic Seminar and other ideas. I was also planing to use the film Viva Cuba for this unit. I have really enjoyed and am feeling totally inspired by your blog series this week! Thank you again for taking the time to share!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Liz Davis

    Thank you for sharing such a wealth of thoughts, ideas, information, and resources through these five blog posts! These posts have been very inspirational and helpful as I navigate the world of CI and work to grow as an educator.

    Liked by 1 person

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