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

New Year’s Reflection #3: Spanish IV

To keep each of these posts a bit different, I am going to work backwards and deconstruct how I structured my Spanish IV classes for this semester and write about each unit. To provide the context, this junior class has always had one less section of classes, so I only have two sections with relatively small numbers at 14 and 10. I have only taught four of these students before because two years ago I only had one section of Spanish II with 12 students in many grade levels. These four students loved learning from stories and songs and frankly their retention was wonderful so I wanted to make it a goal to include as many stories and songs as my semester would permit. Since I am the only Spanish IV teacher, I get to explore and take my students to any place I would like as long as I am preparing them to AP Spanish Language and Culture [which is my mindset anyway and I am also doing this]. So let’s reflect on the semester.

Spanish IV – Semester 1 Reflection

Overall this year’s students all came in at an intermediate low or mid level and I attribute this to our evolving mindset as a department and what we are asking students to do in Spanish – go team!!!

This is the 3rd year I have taught this course and I am constantly modifying the content. This year I switched the order of my two novels: first teaching Vida y muerte en la Mara salvatruchas published by Fluency Matters and then during semester two I will teach La Casa Dividida published by TPRS Books. These two novels are super compelling and last year students loved both of them.

In order to prepare students to read Vida y muerte, to participate in a Spanish only Socratic Seminar (a 2018 goal is to blog about Socratic Seminars soon – although come to OFLA’s annual conference April 5-7 in Cleveland for a three-hour workshop with co-presenter Amy Wopat), to have an interpersonal interview with me as a part of the midterm, and to work on developing their sentences and essay writing in Spanish, here are many of the things that I did for each unit of study.

When we began the year, I had a good idea of the “I CAN” statements that I wanted to include on the midterm although these evolved a bit during the semester. So during class I would make students discuss and write about these “I CAN” statements/topics by responding to questions in pairs or as a class, developing their ideas and thoughts thematically, asking questions, and ultimately recording answers individually or having conversations and writing using this template to help them develop their thoughts and sentences. I provide this same format on their quizzes and they must incorporate these terms in order to exceed expectations on my writing rubrics, which can be found on my resource page. And wow, what a difference this scaffold makes and in time, they are including the transition words with ease.

With regard to speaking grades, this is one area with which I have been experimenting. For the first two speaking grades, I provided the questions and many of my students prepared their responses and responded with beautifully well-developed Spanish (which was not read). This is great on one hand but bad on another because could they do this spontaneously without the preparation? For the following two assessments, I had them work with random partners and ask questions about the topics (yes they prepared these ahead of time but they did not read them) and their partner had to provide shorter answers (about 20 seconds like on the AP Lang and Culture exam), this way it is more like a conversation. I think I will continue with this strategy for more interpersonal like speaking assessments and do others that are more presentational for lengthier responses.

Now for the units, which are below with Essential Questions, I CAN statements, and Themes/Topics.


  • What is my role in my community: my city, school, home?
  • How do the places in my city/community reflect how and where I live?

I can express myself and ask questions about the following:

  • What I like, love, dislike
  • My personality and how I look
  • My home life, where I live, my origins
  • My city and community where I live and go to school
  • Spanish civilization, religions of Spain, and the development of the Spanish language

For this unit, I wanted to get to know my students and have them become very comfortable for many of the novice type questions and I CAN statements. I have always been bothered that my students could possibly do very well on a Socratic Seminar and talk to me about literature and/or politics without being able to respond to questions that we hope they learned in earlier levels. I find this beginning unit is great for all students regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.

I reviewed and taught many structures using traditional TPR and also TPR with subjunctive commands like “Pido que Ud. / I ask that you…,” “Exijo/Mando que Ud./ I demand that you…” and “Sugiero que Ud. / I suggest that you…” This was great this year and I will continue to incorporate it in Spanish III also.

There was a lot of Ben Slavic’s Card Talk, PQA (personalized questions and answers), and a few stories done as well as two beloved songs: Me encanta by Pierre Louis and Señor Wooly’s Sé chévere.


  • What are my goals?
  • How do I define success?

I can express myself and ask questions about the following:

  • My goals, dreams, and future
  • My successes
  • What I have done and I have not yet done
  • My responsibilities

I began doing this unit after backwards planning the book Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatruchas. So many of the words that my students would not have known were about goals, dreams, and reflecting on what one has already done; so it has been perfect for junior students.

For this unit, I make students describe, defend, give reasons, explain, converse and interpret information about goals and dreams. I use a few stories and a Movietalk and embedded reading based on the rather sad short-film Kiwi. Thanks to Laurie Clarcq and Michele Whaley for their concept of embedded readings and training; using embedded readings has been a staple of mine now for many years and I continue to use them because of how they build confidence for all students. Check out for more information.

I also incorporated the songs No importa la distancia from Disney’s Hercules sung by Ricky Martin or now by David Bisbal too, and Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked (see my resources). These two songs deal with the themes and we learn a lot of vocabulary from the songs – here are two of my Quizlet sets for “No importa la distancia” (shortened list and longer list) that align with some vocabulary in the Vida y Muerte. Thanks to song expert Lisa Reyes, who shared her No Importa la Distancia materials with me many years ago.


  • What does friendship mean to me?
  • What should one look for in an ideal partner?
  • How does one country’s turmoil affect the lives of its people, community, and culture both in the country and in the world?
  • Socratic Seminar Question: Should the USA feel responsible for the rise of gangs in Latin America?”

I can express myself and ask questions about the following:

  • My friendships, relationships, ideal partners
  • Keeping secrets
  • Being a member of an organization/team
  • Loyalty and faithfulness
  • Trust
  • Pride
  • Crime and punishment (including war and gangs)

During this unit we explore the Civil War in El Salvador (1980 – 92) through a film study of Voces Inocentes. This year we also had pre- and post-discussions about types of governments, politics, and global issues, which were all spontaneous and real conversations. To help prepare my students, I went to that one “folder I know I have in one of my four very full filing cabinets” and pulled the National Spanish Exam word lists for these topics and copied them for my students. In 2007, I did quiz all of my students on these words but fortunately for my 2017 students I did not. Instead students just used the words to help them engage in conversation and it was successful. Students did have to demonstrate their knowledge of the themes from the film in both presentational forms: speaking and writing. Again as I mentioned earlier, although I do know that they are rehearsing and preparing these responses, I have concluded that this is one way that I help students reach Intermediate mid, high and Advanced levels. It is through my expectation of developing their thoughts (which does include some rehearsing) and it has been very successful for many students and in years when I did not require it as much, students were not reaching those levels.

In preparation for the crime aspects of the text Vida y muerte, I have created a story that I tell students. Then we read the text with a lot of success because I had already exposed them to so many of the words from the text. Fortunately for our us who use the novel, Carrie Toth has blogged about her many reading activities that I have used over the years to teach this novel (but these ideas could be applied to teaching any novel). I really enjoy reading this novel with the students. The chapters are rather short and they hold the students’ interest. Each day this year, students were speaking about the topics above and what was happening, happened, or will happen in the novel. It was very successful and it was apparent that I have taught this novel now four times.

One recommendation I have is to have students read the Prologue at the end; the language is difficult. For me it serves as a terrific segue way to the Socratic Seminar question: Socratic Seminar Question: Should the USA feel responsible for the rise of gangs in Latin America?” This year I chose to show a National Geographic documentary that I found on Youtube instead of using the film, Sin nombre (we were out of time) but I will still use it in the future.

The day of the Socratic Seminar my students spoke only in Spanish for their allotted 30 minutes (for a group of 7 students (two rounds during the class) and 45 minutes (for a group of 10 (1 round). The Seminar is evidence based and students must refer to class sources and their own articles that they have found and annotated. The first year I started doing these Socratic Seminars in Spanish, the students were terrified but they almost all report having grown tremendously from the experience. We have since implemented a first Socratic Seminar experience at the end of level III, which has helped ease the fears in level IV. In level IV, last year I had to develop a rubric that looks for spontaneous speaking and not prepared reading. This change in evaluating has helped more students to really listen to what is being said and responding off the cuff, which is a part of the goal for this assessment which has elements of all three communication modes: interpersonal speaking, presentational speaking and writing, and interpretive through finding and annotating articles in Spanish and following the seminar.

To round out the semester, I have a 4 part midterm: the spoken interview, Interpretive Reading, in class written essay, and a structure/grammar piece. I always fight myself internally about this 25% grammatical content piece. But this year I chose to include it so that they would review many tenses of higher frequency verbs, word relationships, and the gender of tricky nouns. I have brought this aspect back after waffling for so many years because my conclusion is that it is in this level they need these aspects of structure and language to help them grow. The studying did not harm them and they appreciate that in general I do not give too much daily “busy”-homework.   As I always tell people, I have been an AP reader for many years and language accuracy is not the focus of the rubrics but rather the task completion and its development. This being said, if students produce work that is more accurate with regard to spelling, more polished with agreement, and using a variety of tenses and vocabulary in addition to completing the tasks and development, then the product has a chance to be scored better. If I do not create learning opportunities to enhance these aspects then they may not get them. I know there are many other ways to work on this accuracy and this is one way that I am using.

Overall I am filled with Pride for these students (another beloved song that I taught this semester, Orgullo (This is For) by PitBull. These students have worked so hard and they all feel success, which is wonderful. I know this after seeing their happy faces talking and asking me questions during their midterm interviews. I am very pleased with their progress, and I look forward to Semester 2. Thanks for reflecting with me. As of now, I am not sure what I will write for my 4th New Year’s Blog Post – I have yet to be inspired

New Year’s Reflection #2 – Spanish III


My second New Year’s Blog post will be my reflection for Spanish III for the first semester. I have not taught Spanish III in three years, which was my first year in my current school setting. That year my expectations for what students should have known and been able to do in Spanish were way too high and it was a year of growth for all of us. But this year, I am so pleased to have had a different reaction because all of the work our department has done since then with greater focuses on language performance and proficiency. Now our students are speaking and writing in Spanish with more confidence and so many more are at an Intermediate low/mid level in level III. This being said in my small class of 17 there is still a great mix of student abilities and desire to actually be learning Spanish. Since it is my newest prep, it has been a lot of trial and error but overall everyone seems happy and to be growing.

Since I have not taught all of these students in the past some have never experienced teaching for acquisition with comprehensible input and/or traditional TPR and TPRS. So I have had to set the groundwork and expectations for them while they must train their brains for a new way of learning.

I have also had to find a great balance of helping move novice students to intermediate while still moving my intermediates ahead. In Spanish III, we take a thematic approach but I find within the themes I am able to use a variety of TCI strategies that benefit all. For the first semester, I tackle three themes. For me I must start the year with a time to get to know my students so I build upon the context of Personal Identity & Interests followed by Cooking & Food Preparation and then Healthy Living & Medical Emergencies. Even though a third prep has been a lot more work for me as a teacher I do love the challenge of developing new and rich comprehensible input contexts. I am going to reflect on some of those today and also give shout outs and thank you’s to so many other teachers who have inspired or provided the materials that I am using.


Spanish III 2017 Semester One


This year I have found MovieTalks to be a great way to provide input to my mixed group. I used the following four source videos. For two of them I have noted some of my target structures that helped my telling and questioning and for the other two I have provided where you can buy already developed lessons that are ready to go.

1. Android Commercial: Paper, Rock, Scissors

I used various high frequency past tense verbs and worked with the following structures: fight, sheet of paper, rock, scissors, he (they) put, he (they) fell, he (they) helped him, he (they) smiled, he (they) cried

2. Bomba Estereo’s song and video: Soy yo

I used Kara Jacob’s story, which is available here on her TPT site. When you see great resources that are already developed, I suggest spending the little bit of money and buying them. Not only is the work done for you but you will learn so much as you work through the materials. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone but I feel the same way about textbooks for new teachers – this is one way we learn our craft.

3.   The Wallet

Kristy’s Placido’s fun lesson and story are available on her TPT site or through this link. Overall this was a fun lesson that I paired with my telling of La Llorona only because of some of the structures that worked for both like lost, was looking for, found.

4.    Pixar’s Inner Workings (available via Itunes) – Thanks to my colleague Emily Hazzard for suggesting this film.

Structures ~ we had been working on a Top 20 list of present subjunctive structures too

  • He feels – se siente
  • He has fun – se divierte
  • He is going to have fun – va a divertirse
  • He calculates the risk – calcula el riesgo
  • The brain (does not) want(s) that he – El cerebro (no) quiere que él (I used verbs from my Top 20 list that they now knew or through the video they were comprehensible)
  • The heart suggests that he – El corazón sugiere que él (From the TOP 20 list)


LIVE ACTION SPANISH – my new “older” Resource

This summer while at NTPRS (Boston July 9-13) and IFLT (Cincinnati July 17-20) (amazing conferences if you are not familiar with them – check them out and get to one this summer), I was checking out Contee Seely’s resources through the Command Performance Language Institute and found this gem: Live Action Spanish or Viva la acción. This book provides lessons that help teachers extend traditional TPR actions and gestures to a contextualized situation or story. The book, written by Contee Seely and Elizabeth Kuizenga Romijn, has more than 60 contexts of very common scenarios and themes we teach in many world language classes. In the Spanish version, each scenario is written in both the familiar “tú form” and the formal “Ud. form.”
So far I have used the following scenarios in the Ud. commands as all class TPR lessons and/or for reading homework and they have worked wonderfully. I will use more of these in the “Tú form” with my Spanish II classes next semester as we prepare for our quarter on travel.

Cooking & Food Preparation Unit – Scrambled Eggs, Toast, Cereals, and Typical Central American Breakfast

Medical Emergencies & Healthy Living – Medical Appointment, Vitamins, and the Bloody Knee (which made for a great class story)!

These Live Action books can be purchased in Spanish, French, English, Italian, and Japanese through the Command Performance Language Institute’s site.

Practicing Circumlocution

I know that my students must work on circumlocution – frankly I have to work on it too. I personally love games like Taboo and Catch Phrase, so I try to play games like this every once in a while. My students do love to play Bryan Kandel’s Silla Caliente/Hot Seat, read about it here on his blog.

This year to also help my Spanish III students, and what I would like to think to help move more of them to an intermediate Spanish level, we created this circumlocution sheet. If you look at it, you will see that I embedded many “rules” of using ser and estar). Download it on my resources page.

My Confession: Free Reading

This year we started out the first month doing Free Reading every week using the wonderful novels written for language students, but after the first month I must say I fell off the wagon. This is a bummer because my colleague who teaches the other sections of Spanish III has found great value in the free reading experience for the students and she has consistently done it. So I am not proud of this and I am confessing, but starting in 2018 we will free read our novels weekly. I must carve out the time and assure that I have our shared library cart in the room. A shout out to all of the authors of the amazing new novels that are being published, including Jennifer Degenhardt’s “Los tres amigos” with, to my knowledge, the first gay identifying character in a language learner novel. My LGBTQ students will feel very affirmed that this is a new option.


I now have Textivate and I have enjoyed exploring the possibilities. I have created a few assignments and my Spanish III students have been the guinea pigs, which did include 2 very lengthy homework assignments. In class we did a challenge day which seemed to go over better than well the 2 very lengthy homework assignments. My mishap with Textivate has been that my stories are too long and detailed, so I think if I use shorter pieces then it would make for a more doable and better experience for students.

Picture References: Two more fun days in Spanish III

Reading with 1st Graders – Students are reading children’s books in Spanish to 1st graders studying Spanish in our district elementary school.

Gozadera Break Out Winners – Check out Kristine Keefe’s great Online Breakout for La Gozadera here


As I reflect on Spanish III, teaching only one section is like teaching was for me in my small private school for the first 11 years of my career. I only had one chance every day to present a lesson and then I would have to wait until the next year to improve upon or completely change the lesson. Most of my career was built upon this reality with the exception of ironically Spanish III, which for many years I had two sections. My level III was always a very solid course even in my more legacy thematic approach but thinking about it now how was a moving novices to intermediate then or was I? Of course, I was for some of my students, but today I am able to articulate and define so much more thanks to all of the resources we now have and did not then. This is enough reflecting for this New Year’s post – God willing my Spanish IV reflection will be ready for January 3, 2018.


New Year’s Reflection #1 – Spanish II

Happy New Year and 2018! Since this Blog is now a semester old, I am going to take the next 5 days and reflect on the semester and where we will be going for the second semester. I know that taking a step back and thinking about what I did in classes and what my students were able to do (and not do) will help guide the next semester. One reality of the year is that I have three preps, teaching high school levels Spanish II, III, and IV. This reality often leaves me feeling like what I am doing is Never Enough to quote from the new musical film: The Greatest Showman. But then I read over my student’s midterm surveys and even after a long series of midterm assessments they are pleased with the variety of activities in the classes and their growing Spanish proficiency. This does please me very much and I will use their feedback to continue to improve as a teacher. Moving on, in this series of New Year’s Blog posts, I will write about each level, some thoughts about assessments, and then what I hope to accomplish and try during the second semester in my classes.

Spanish II – 10 Top

I teach two sections of Spanish II and other colleagues teach the other three sections, meaning I have to teach similar content during each semester in order to prepare students for our midterms, yet our midterm design does allow for nice autonomy for teachers. Teachers are able to agree on themes and language structure/grammar and within the broad theme I try my best to make my teaching style and preferences work. Our classes are an interesting mix of students ranging from all four grades and with a wide-range of language abilities with many students having now studied Spanish since Kindergarten. With regard to language proficiency our students range from Novice low to those approaching Intermediate low/mid. It is my fourth year teaching Spanish II so I know the “expected content” and each year I work to define the language outcomes for students remembering how vast their abilities are in all of our different skill levels. I do feel that we expect a lot from our students when we think about 21st century world language classrooms and the many abilities they must prove and content they must show – I am not against requiring students to perform in speaking, writing, reading, listening and/or interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes while showing knowledge of content, grammar, and vocabulary but I am aware how difficult this could be for many students. I will continue this thought later this week.

To best reflect on Spanish II, I will use a Top 10 style list based on what I did in no particular order this first semester.

10. Cultural Comparison using a Film

To have students think about the 3 Ps of Culture (Products, Practices, and Perspective), a two-day film study before Thanksgiving was exactly what my students and I needed to survive those two days before a few days of freedom. This was a wise classroom management decision.

Prior to watching the film, The Book of Life (which I will probably replace with Coco next year), I had students talk with their classroom partner about the Products, Practices, and Perspectives that had to do with Thanksgiving and their own personal lives. Together we discussed some of their responses in English or Spanish if able to better understand the 3 Ps.

For two days we watched The Book of Life in English with Spanish subtitles. During the film, I simply provided them a worksheet with a table with columns for the 3 Ps and then three columns that reflected the current or new structures from class: Past Tense Verbs, Words We’ve Learned This Year and New Words You Have Not Seen. I really liked that I required students to fill this table out each day of the film because there was a piece of accountability that many of my students need. Here is a copy of a chart that could be modified and used for any film.

9. Cultural Readings for Homework

In general, I do not give too much homework in Spanish II but this year, I have started to use the cultural readings from Janet Healy Mulholland Teacher Discovery’s Chico Chile Dice series (which I cannot find on the site but here is one that I found).

The series includes a very comprehensible reading with pictures to reinforce possible unknown vocabulary and a quiz about each Spanish-speaking country. I created quick Google Form Quizzes with an answer key for each reading that student completed on days I was out or for homework. I thought this was a good use of their time for days I was not in class and/or homework because it provided some good facts about geography, cultural aspects and provided them comprehensible input that I would usually not do in class –plus it was self graded due to Google Forms newer feature. During semester one, we did Central America and the Caribbean, and for semester two, students will read about the South American countries and Spain.  Including more culture and geography was a goal for us in Spanish II this year, and these assignments have helped to accomplish this goal.

8. Reviewing Present Tense “I forms” and Pre-loading Irregular Past Tense Verbs as Word Chunks with an Established Vocabulary List

Ok, I know that is a long title but I did what it says. I took a textbook vocabulary list about free-time activities during the summer and I created structures/word chunks with present and past tense irregular verbs. This process is neither new nor novel because it is a way many TCI teachers have created structures for their TCI context (especially if working with established vocabulary lists). So what did I learn from this experience??? I certainly met my goal of teaching the free-time activities during the summer with a solid review of the present tense (which many students have had great exposure). What did not work so well was my hope that students would magically learn the “I forms” of the past tense in Spanish because it was way too many structures (at 40 per tense). Please do not get me wrong, I did not just provide them these lists. I used many of the structures in context in various stories and worked with them but alas nowhere near what was needed for solid acquisition although students certainly had exposure.

So overall I think this provided some of my students with many elements of foundational high frequency verbs, the summer vocabulary that I do continue to see and hear in use, and a good review of present tense verbs in the highly irregular “I form” but I cannot expect “mastery” of “I form” past tenses from this exposure. However this experiment did lead me to a rather successful introduction to the past tenses that was new – see number 2.

7. Bargaining Situational Role-Play

I still believe requiring students to practice verbalizing some situational “role-plays” can have some great educational value for students. I think it helps to give students a better sense of how a situation will and could play out in the real world. In general, I do not have students do these in front of the class, especially if it is the same situation, and I provide students with an English “script” of language functions/I can statements to lead the dialogue.

Bargaining in a market and asking about price is an essential real world skill that I feel should be practiced by students. So this year, I chose to use a shortened dialogue for a speaking grade and I was pleased with the results. Prior to expecting the students to perform, we listened to and watched the video of ‘s Es una ganga and asked, told, and read various stories that incorporated the same language that students would need to have success with the role-play at a level that would meet the expectations and/or exceed them with strong development. Overall I have been pushing students to develop their sentences and thoughts in Spanish and this was very apparent in many of my student’s responses. Because of the nature of how I prepared students for the “role-play,” many students were using acquired language and I do not feel students were just memorizing for the sake of the role-play, which helped make this year’s a great experience.

6. Jobs and Daily Participation Rubric

Well an October shake-up was what I felt was needed in at least one of my Spanish II classes. When I say this I mean classroom management needed to be my first priority – which seemed like a national problem because it was around this time that many world language teachers were posting on Facebook groups about classroom management concerns, and I was in the same situation. There were a few strategies that I chose to implement at this time: class jobs (do a search for Ben Slavic or Bryce Hedstrom and class jobs), a new daily rubric and quiz, and new seating arrangement.

Overall my students liked the jobs and they seemed to react well to the daily rubrics, here a copy of this simple rubric. For me as a teacher, here is what happens with these new pieces, they become yet another thing that I must find time to conduct, leaving me feel more like being the ringmaster of a circus; I should just go with it and pretend to be and be able to sing like Hugh Jackman or Zac Efron in the Greatest Showman? All joking aside, even after trying class jobs and daily rubrics in the past, they have never become a part of the fabric of my classes as so many have successfully done. We did them for most of October and November but not December because so much of December was devoted to reading a novel, Mira Canion’s Fiesta Fatal (Happy New Year’s Birthday Mira Canion!)  But when we return to school in 2018, I will incorporate both jobs and the daily rubrics from day one because I do find them to be effective in Spanish II.

I quickly mentioned a new seating arrangement and that was positive for the most part. For this arrangement, I collected information from students and asked them these two questions: 1. With whom do you want to sit and you feel they will help you only speak Spanish? 2. With whom do you not want to sit and you feel it would not help you only speak Spanish? I took their thoughts and was able to form teams of four students, which has helped in team activities and quick interpersonal partner speaking tasks.

5. Dictation and Running Dictation

I love to do one Running Dictation lesson per semester because it is great fun for the students and all are engaged. Here is Martina Bex’s explanation.

I also find great value in using dictation activities because they require students to listen, write, read, and self-correct. Whenever I do them (which is not often and must be more frequent as I am reflecting on this), the students learn a great deal from them. I am going to outline how I prefer to do these, which I got many years ago from one of my presenting partners, Teri Wiechart.

  1. Prepare an eight to twelve sentence story; this often is a follow-up reading from a class story.
  2. Tell students to write the first sentence on the first line of a sheet of paper.
  3. Read the sentence two to four times in target language.
  4. Tell students to skip two lines.
  5. Read the second sentence two to four times, and skip two lines. Continue this until the end of the story.
  6. Show students the first sentence. Tell them they must correct their sentence by rewriting the misspelled words including missed accents on the line below the original sentence. For grading purposes, students must correct all errors and as long as they correct everything they get full credit; they are simply copying down the corrections at this point.

The system helps students see spelling and make connections from the aural to written word, and they feel they learn from the process.

Some of my mistakes as a teacher for both Dictation and Running Dictation are that I make the sentences way too long. Who me? as you read through my never-ending sentences in this post? Just be aware of this.

4. Incorporating Songs

I often think about cutting pop songs from my Spanish II content because for the most part they are not comprehensible. I do however use many Señor Wooly songs that are comprehensible. But then I see how well my students react to the pop songs and I know that I should keep them. In order to justify using them (in my own mind because I hate wasting class-time), I use songs to enhance vocabulary/structure learning, to recognize keywords for listening purposes, and to lead into or enhance stories.

In general here is the format that I have used with level II songs while also possibly weaving the song into a story:

Day 1: Listen and tally how many times does the artist say “word (the most commonly      said word in the song)?”

Day 2: Listen for “this or that word.” I write a list of about five to six pairs of good           vocabulary words that students should be exposed to or know. From the pair only one of  the words in is the song. They listen to the song and circle which word is said in the song.

Day 3/4: Listen to the song and fill in or circle the missing lyrics; read over       for meaning.

Day 5: Watch and discuss the video or a karaoke/lyrics version.

To get a better idea for the set-up of a song, here are my worksheets for Frozen’s “Libre Soy” (Latin American version of “Let It Go”). This song is usually loved by all students even by those who “don’t like” it.

This year semester one songs have been:

Colores, Colores – Bacilos; Dónde estás, corazón – Shakira; Camarero – Enrique (old school 80s); Amnesia – Señor Wooly (do not use the full video until after Es una Ganga); Eres – CD9; Libre Soy – Frozen Latin America; La Invitación – Señor Wooly; La Calaverita – Santa Cecilia; Me equivoqué – CD9; Es una ganga – Señor Wooly; A mis quince (XV) – Eme 15

3. Storytelling and Story-Asking

From the results of all of my student surveys (levels II, III, and IV) students reported that hearing stories was one of the best ways to help their language skills. The survey, a copy is here, had students reflect on the four skills and content during the first semester, and again class stories were often referenced and the word did “story” did not appear on the survey.

So I know that I must continue to use class storytelling and asking next semester because even if some students seem disengaged, they are still responding to the input and working on acquiring language. I make this mental note because my Spanish III and IV courses become very thematic and stories become a bit harder to incorporate in the same way as in my Spanish II classes.

2. Stories in the Past Tense “I forms”

Since I also teach Spanish IV and III, I have noticed when speaking in the past tenses that students were overusing the third person “she / he form” in place of the “I form.” This is probably because in Spanish the “she / he form” in the Preterit tense ends in the “o” but I also have many students that say “yo fue” instead of “yo fui” so this year I wanted to experiment. My goal was to introduce the “I form” in the past tense Preterit before the “she / he form;” this is not a problem for the Imperfect tense because the forms are the same.

When I began telling and asking stories in the past tenses, I did so in the first person “I form” this year and not the “she / he form.” For the most part I was able to use similar stories that I have used before and just changed their perspective. I found that I was also able to make an easier transition to the 1st person “we form” and 2nd person “you form” because of the connections amongst the common vowels in the Preterit.

I will say I am very pleased with this decision because the “I form” past tense output is great from my students. In fact, for those aspects of the department midterm (both spoken and written), there was at least 80% accuracy for the “I form.” I cannot say the same for the third person “she / he forms,” but I do know that I have not spent enough time with input of these forms. So for quarter 3, I know much of my instruction will focus on 3rd person singular for many stories. I will report back later throughout the semester when I see how they are using the various forms.

1.Daily Calendar

For the past three years, I have incorporated daily calendar and weather discussion for at least 3 quarters but I did not often see a transfer of my goals (I can tell day, date, time, weather, etc in present and past) in the students’ actual output. So in many ways, I have wondered if I am wasting time.

This November, I wanted to try an idea from Northeast Ohio TCI PLC coordinator Christy Miller. I provided my students with a blank calendar and each day there was a quick “warm-up” task attached to it. Each day students had to write the date (numbers in words) and respond to a question in Spanish. I used this question to start off of the class and because of this all students were comfortable responding to the question because they had prepared it. Yes many students were reading but I feel this was an appropriate scaffold for many students and also a way to help prepare them for our midterm speaking assessment. Students also wrote down the password/expression of the week on their calendar. I made this calendar idea my #1 because even though students do not like having to have their calendars out and begin writing when the bell rings, it helps them all focus and get in the Spanish mindset. It also was reported on the survey as an important part of the helping the students feel like they are learning Spanish. So I see this as a great success.

Thanks for reflecting on these 10 pieces from my work with my Spanish II students this year. Tomorrow’s 2018 New Year’s Blog post will be about Spanish III.