Inside: Back to school Spanish activities and plans.
I don’t know about you, but beginnings make me anxious. Or maybe it’s more like this: the anticipation of beginnings makes me anxious. Even on Sunday nights–in the middle of the school year– I get those butterflies. Once school starts, we jump in and it really is okay! (Especially now that I have a clearer idea of where we’re going and how students take in language.) That week-before is just tricky.
Teaching for ten years now, back-to-school has gotten better. I wish I’d had easy access to ideas from other teachers in those early days, so I’ve gathered these back-to-school Spanish lesson posts into one place. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, here you’ll have tons of great ideas at your fingertips! (more…)
Inside: teach and learn Spanish with music, through 30 authentic songs full of the subjunctive, conditional, and commands.
Finally, a list of authentic Spanish songs for advanced classes! My lists for Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 are already popular, and this one should round it all out.
Using authentic songs gets significantly easier with upper grades, as you aren’t sheltering vocabulary so much. If you need some ideas on what to do, read about teaching Spanish with authentic songs here.
The songs are sorted by tense, so you can easily find input with repetitions of the structures you’re targeting. Of course, new music is always coming out and I want to make these lists as helpful as possible. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. (more…)
I’m writing this series because I remember so clearly what’s it’s like, to be on the edge of that cliff– poised to jump into textbook-free land, with a mind-boggling array of choices below. I just wanted someone to hold my hand, help me sort it all out, and put me touch with the experts. And that’s exactly what I’d like to do here.
Inside: My back-to-school lesson plans for the first two weeks of Spanish class.
Every year, I forget just how exhausting those first few weeks are. My brain is spinning. I’m in overdrive, trying to make everyone feel welcome –but not smile until December, right? (just kidding)– be utterly consistent, totally organized, and always engaging.
Whew. The truth is, you just do your best. And that will exhaust you. But it does help if you can see what others are doing, and not reinvent the wheel. That’s why I’ve pulled together my Spanish class first two weeks of lesson plans, to give you a jumpstart.
I so appreciate other teachers sharing their process (looking at you, Mis Clases Locas), so in this post I’m outlining my first two weeks.
Grading, Procedures, and the Syllabus
Changing my why of course changes the how, and so I am overhauling a lot.
I am trading in my old categories of tests, quizzes, classwork, etc. for these five categories: reading, writing, listening, speaking, and work habits. I took this directly from Martina Bex here. She also has a great explanation of her switch to standards based assessment and grading. My actual grading scheme comes from MagisterP, who has amazingly helpful rubrics and ideas. I am choosing the option of 90% proficiency and 10% DEA– that just feels realistic as I start out. For Spanish I, we are shooting to be at Novice-Mid by the end of the year.
It is worth clarifying here that being proficiency-based does not mean looking at the ACTFL standards and working backwards by practicing the the standards. Before, my quizzes tested how much the students had memorized and practiced. I looked at a standard (I can talk about my family members), and we would practice talking about family members. Now, I look at that standard and think about input. What stories will we tell? What music will we listen to? What will we read and what structures do we need? When I do assess, and ask a student about her mother, I am not listening to a memorized paragraph and marking errors. I am letting her use what she has internalized to tell me about her mother. This will let me see her actual proficiency, not how hard she studied the paragraph the night before.
“In an effective classroom students should not only know what they are doing, they should also know why and how.” – Harry Wong
This is syllabus I project onto the board the night the parents meet me for back-to-school night:
(The eyes and ears part is quoted from Musicuentos, and the Can-Do’s are modified from the ACTFL standards.) I give a different, black and white syllabus to the students that outlines our specific procedures and rules. Many of those are school-wide and we work through all of them over the first 2-3 weeks. I love this handout from Bryce Hedstrom for procedures. Also, this free syllabus template from Creative Language Class is awesome.
I use interactive notebooks. They record bell-ringers, can-do statements, notes, target structures, and more in their interactive notebooks.
Unit 1: Our Classroom & Nuevos Amigos
Essential Questions: Who is here? Why learn Spanish? How do I get what I need in class, in the target language?
I can greet and meet others.
I can get materials and information I need in the TL.
I can explain why we are here, what I can expect in class, and what is expected of me.
Assessment: Ehhh… don’t have this figured out yet. Something informal, maybe.
Here is an overview of the first two weeks, day by day:
Day 1: ¿Cómo te llamas?, me llamo, and se llama (Circling with Balls)
Day 2: Introduce proficiency levels. Review se llama, and introduce hay, chico, chica, and le gusta for brief personalized storytelling.
Day 3: Prep interactive notebooks. (Listen to Puedo ir al baño and Tengo tu love.)
Day 4:Tengo, tienes, and classroom objects. (Play card games with classroom objects images.)
Day 5: Review classroom objects with games. Ask a story using structures from Days 1-4.
Day 6: Read story from Day 5. Begin Martina Bex Unit 1: Dice, recording the 3 targets in notebooks and listening to Los pollitos dicen.
Day 7: Continue with storyasking in Dice Unit. Introduce numbers 1-10 and play games as brain breaks.
Day 8: Continue with Dice Unit, using embedded readings, and work with Los pollitos dicen.
Day 9: Do the Te presento a reading from the Dice Unit, and teach numbers 1-10. Play Mano Nerviosa.
Day 10: Do first FreeWrite assessment, and have discussion in English on class objectives. proficiency, and expectations.
(For week 2, I rely heavily on Martina Bex’s Dice unit . It is available for free! I own many of her units and love them.)
Spanish Class First Two Weeks of Lesson Plans
I can describe what I need to do in class during a group activity in the TL.
I can say my name.
Bienvenidos: Greet students at the door and have some songs on Spanish playing in background. Students find their seat with their name on a post-it note. Follow instructions on board to choose a name from a list of Spanish names, cross it off when chosen, and make these name tags and drawings to prep Circling with Balls activity (my student must draw two activities).
Introductions: Circling With Balls from Ben Slavic. I use this to introduce ¿Cómo te llamas?, me llamo, and se llama. I start with myself to model.
Like he suggests, I have my classroom rules posted in class and point to them as needed. I figure the students are overwhelmed discussing rules in every class,Better just to pinpoint several main things: stay in the TL, give me your eyes and ears, and know that I care about you. Rather than lecturing, we jump in and communicate expectations as we go.
My twist on Circling with Balls is to project a bracket onto the board. I record their responses on the board with a quick sketch. I already have some common activities typed up with a picture, and simply place them on the board as we go. Someone likes to read, and leer goes up on the bracket as a picture of a book.
Icebreaker: I do this towards the end of class, as I like to end the first day on a high note as well.
I have everyone stand up and we do a bracket vote. By this time, the outer brackets are filled in with activities my students like. They all have little drawings next to them– everything is clear and comprehensible. I call out and point to two terms, and they vote by moving to either side of the room. This is completely input– they just listen and vote.
(Keep in mind that my class sizes are on the small side. You might spread this over two days. The Cognates Game II is a simpler version that could work as well, since the terms have pictures.)
Closing: If there’s time, we watch Señor Wooly’s Puedo ir al baño.
I can identify my proficiency level and where I want to be.
I can say other names in our class.
Para empezar: Greet students at the door. Have names from the day before in chairs to indicate seating. Instructions on board indicate that students should skim through ACTFL statements (on chairs) and determine where their skills lie.
Input: (Prep: using the name cards from day 1, type up short statements about several students in the class and project them onto the board, using cognates as well.) Write hay, chico, chica, and le gusta on the board and sketch/write the meanings. Then, describe one of the students.
Hay una chica. Es MUY atlética. Le gusta jugar al voleibol. (With picture clue.) ¿Cómo se llama?
Call on students, having them guess who it is. After several repetitions, call up an outgoing student and ask the class, and story-tell about them. ¿Cómo se llama? ¡Es MUY atractiva! Remember to be super complimentary. I start with this to reinforce expectations of procedures and TL use, and get in some more se llama reps. It is short, though- the focus for today is understanding proficiency levels.
Icebreaker II/Brain Break: This is to prep our discussion of proficiency. We play a short game of Celebrities OR use the Proficiency & tacos activity. The icebreaker from the day before has given me a good idea of what this group can handle.
Discussion: Discuss what proficiency in Spanish means. Review ACTFL standards briefly, and pass out rubrics to show how students will be evaluated, and where we’re going.
I can show how we will use interactive notebooks to track input and progress in proficiency.
Assignment: Assemble interactive notebooks and number the pages.
Listen to Puedo ir al baño and Tengo tu love while working.
Here’s an overview of how I organize our notebooks:
I can get materials in the TL.
I can express what materials I have and don’t have.
Para empezar: Copy classroom objects terms into INB Beginning of the Year booklet page.
Input: Write tienes and tengo on the board. Listen to Tengo tu love, zeroing in on tengo. (There a reference– a negative one– to a table dance in the song. I avoid that part, but for some of you it may mean not using this song.)
Game/Interpersonal activity: Work on classroom objects. I teach these right away, because I want to be able to give instructions in the TL. My students tend to know a lot of the words already (profesor, estudiante, la mesa, el libro). Depending on time and what they already know, we do several of these options:
Do first storyasking about an unprepared student who comes to class woefully unprepared.
(It can be hard for me to tell an engaging story with so little vocabulary at this point. It helps A LOT to have some funny props– a giant pencil and paper, for example, a little halo to put on the prepared student, a fake bathroom set up etc. I choose several outgoing students to act out the story we come up with as a class, and may tell the actors a bit of the background so they know what to do.)
I follow this outline, loosely, after writing dice (says) on the board:
Hay dos chicos. Un chico se llama Miguel. No es muy preparado. Es creativo. Un chico se llama David. Es MUY preparado. No es creativo. Miguel y David tienen la clase de español. Miguel y David están en las sillas.
La profesora dice: – ¿Cómo te llamas?
Miguel dice: – Me llamo Miguel.
La profesora dice: – Hola, Miguel.
David dice: – Me llamo David. La profesora dice: – Hola, David.
(Teacher writes their names on board.)
La profesora dice: – ¿Tienen un lápiz?
Miguel dice: – No, no tengo un lápiz. Tengo un ________ (funny cognate…. teléfono, computadora).
La profesora dice: – ¡Ay, no!
David dice: – Sí, tengo un lapiz. La profesora dice: – ¡Muy bien, David!
(Teacher gives Miguel a sad face and David a happy face on the board.)
La profesora dice: – ¿Tienen un papel?
Miguel dice: – No, no tengo un papel. Tengo un ________ (funny cognate…. foto, tablet).
La profesora dice: – ¡Ay, no!
David dice: – Sí, tengo un papel. La profesora dice: – ¡Muy bien, David!
(Teacher gives Miguel a sad face and David a happy face on the board.)
Miguel dice: – Profe, ¿puedo ir al baño?
La profesora dice: – Sí.
(Miguel runs to the “bathroom” and grabs some toilet paper.
Miguel dice: ¡Profe! ¡Tengo papel! La profesora dice: – ¡Jajajaja! ¡Muy bien, David!
(Teacher gives Miguel 10 smiley faces because he is creative.)
I can sing phrases from a short authentic song in Spanish.
Input: Give students the typed story from Friday, with some questions in English. Go over their answers briefly.
Para empezar: Use Martina Bex’s Dice unit slideshow p. 5 or 6. This is the first time using the interactive notebook for the bell-ringer, and I go over the procedure. I just have a paper with nine blank boxes, and they use block a day.
Input: Introduce Los pollitos dicen, using elements from Days 1 and 2 in Dice unit.
Brain break: Review classroom objects. Have the students stand up and touch the objects you say (la mesa, el lápiz, etc), play Slap-it.
Storyasking: Students copy down éste/ésta es, un muchacho/a, and dice into the notebooks using flip-flaps like the ones below.
Closing: Show slide 5, 6, or 7 from the Dice plans. This might make for a good exit ticket.
Game: I like to teach numbers early on because most of my students can usually rote count and don’t need lots of input on this. We quickly write down the number words in the beginning of the year booklet and play Mano Nerviosa to practice the individual numbers. (Days, months, weather, etc. get added naturally, as we talk about the date or birthdays during La persona especial interviews later.) We just come back to this booklet again and again until it’s full.
Brain break: Classroom objects games.
I can explain why I am learning Spanish.
I can explain how to rise in proficiency and what I need to do in class.
Assessment: Do first freewrite for 5-10 minutes. Have the students tell a story without any supporting materials. I emphasize that this one is a FORMATIVE assessment– it will give us a starting place to see where everyone is, and something to compare to as the school progresses.
Discussion: I wait until the end of my intro unit talk about why we’re learning Spanish at all. I used to do this the first day. Then I realized that in the craziness of that first day it would all probably go in one ear and out another. As we close out our mini-unit, we reflect on these first two weeks and digest it all: the how, and then the why. I used to highlight the pragmatic reasons for Spanish: better jobs, higher salaries, improving brain function, etc.. Those are benefits, for sure, but they don’t get to the heart of the matter. I want to make sure to pause and think about how learning a second language makes us better people and touches our souls. We talk about empathy, compassion, friendship, thinking globally, valuing diversity, and caring for others.
Brain Break: Mano nerviosa.
And that’s my tentative plan for starting off the year! Ideally, at this point, our procedures are established and the students can greet and get what they need in Spanish. After Labor Day, we jump into the next unit.
Unit 2: My Immediate World and Who I Am (5-6 weeks)
Essential Questions: What am I like? What do I like to do? What about the others in the room?
I can describe myself and what I like to do.
I can describe other students in the class and what they like to do.
I can explain what fun things I might do today.
Assessment: Quizzes from La persona especial interviews. Perhaps a project.
Language: Sports, hobbies, voy a, vas a, va a, adjectives, estoy, estás, está, le gusta, me gusta, te gusta, article adjectives, ir + infinitive, plural vs. singular
— as a new teacher, I usually made them grammar-based. While I think there’s a time for focusing on accuracy, the first few minutes of class are precious. Students typically retain information best from the beginning and end of class. And what helps students acquire language the most is comprehensible input, and so CI, exercises, probably belong in those precious minutes.
I was beginning with grammar exercises as my Para empezar— conjugate this verb, translate this sentence, correct the mistakes, etc. The students who “got” grammar easily flew through it. The middle students may have improved their accuracy. The students who struggled with Spanish grammar struggled with it. They walked into class and were immediately frustrated by their novice errors, which set the tone for the rest of class.
The message to all my students? The *most* important thing is to not make mistakes. Because when they walked in, I was immediately asking for them to work on their accuracy.
Since then, I’ve moved to a proficiency-based model. I am focused on my students growing and growing in what they can communicate, not in finding their mistakes. One of my goals this year, then, is to completely restructure my lessons. I want to immediately begin with input, and front-load the lesson with rich, compelling content– like a good song or story, or a novel we’re reading.
To combat the stress of lots of preps and my own disorganization, I came up with these editable Choice Boards. Essentially, I can simply copy and paste any song, text, or story onto the board. The students choose a option with which to respond. Everything is very short, as the point is really that they’re taking the content in. I have the prompts and blank squares ready in their notebooks so that I can check at the end of the week. (Or, let’s be honest… whenever I’m able to get to them!)
When we start off the year, for example, I plan to do Persona especial interviews. The next day, the para empezar could be one of those typed interviews. It could be the chorus to a song we’ve listened to that week, or a short story we wrote the day before.
Hopefully, as they begin class this year, the message is different. Hopefully they walk in and see all they know: that the compelling content itself hooks them, and the confidence carries over into the rest of class.
If I want to, I can choose a specific square and have all the student respond with the same prompt, so we can immediately go over the responses. Grab your editable version today, if you think this might help your bellringer routine for class!
After attending Camp Musicuentos I’m considering moving my bellringer– administrivia, as Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell calls it– 15 or 20 minutes into class, to maximize the beginning. We’ll see. I think these can work either way!
I’d love to know what you think. Let me know if you have any suggestions to make it better!
Inside: Authentic & appropriate songs to learn Spanish, for beginner classes.
As a new teacher, I so badly wanted my students to feel the magic of Spanish. I loved my Latin music, and thought they’d love some songs to learn Spanish, too. The problem was that I didn’t know HOW to bridge authentic resources to my Spanish newbies.
After throwing out my textbook, I started seriously looking for good content. For some songs, only the chorus will comprehensible, and that’s all I focus on. Some have to do more with culture than language. I have arranged these by my tentative Spanish I units, and tried to do a mix of currently popular and enduring classics. If I missed anything essential, let me know in the comments! (And don’t miss Authentic Songs for Spanish 2 and Authentic Songs for Advanced Spanish Classes!!) I have tried to find appropriate songs for high school, or at least indicate if there’s anything you should be aware of. Sometimes I miss things, and standards for appropriate vary between schools. Let me know if you think anything should be noted or changed!
Unit I: Nuestra clase & nuevos amigos
Who is here? Why learn Spanish? How do I get what I need in class, in the TL? Language: Start super siete verbs (tener, ser, hay), decir, greetings, classroom objects, some numbers and colors. Input/activities: Martina Bex Units, storytelling.
Tengo tu love (sie7e): tengo, soy, tiene, un, una, adjective agreement
Me voy (Julieta Venegas): me voy, no quiero, voy a, decir (some preterit- the chorus is most useful)
Hoy es domingo (Diego Torres): hoy, es domingo, mañana, día, para, pastimes
Me gustas tú (Manu Chao): time, me gustas tú, me gusta + noun/adjectives, ¿qué voy a hacer?
Mambo (Realidades- not strictly authentic, I think): ¿qué te gusta hacer?, te gusta, me gusta, infinitives, también, tampoco
Me gustas tú (Luis Fonsi): me gustas, me gusta, hago, me haces, tu, tú,
Unit III: Mi hogar (la familia) y mi escuela
Who is my family? What is a day/year at school like?
Language: family members, school vocabulary, weather, days, months, time. Sweet sixteen verbs.
Input: More Martina Bex units, fables. Day of the Dead mini-unit (honoring the family).
De colores (traditional- Joan Baez): primavera, me gustan a mí
Mamá (Siggno): familia, mamá, siempre, te amo, scenes of life in Mexico- refers to poemita Sana, sana, colita de rana
Hermanos (Casi Creativo): hermano, perdonar, enseñarme a compartir (WTF, abbreviated, appears at 1:17)
A Papá (Casi Creativo– cerveza at minute :52 but otherwise a great song): papá, gracias por…, eres, te lo digo
Te quiero ver (Natalia Lafourcade): domingo, mañana, tarde, anochecer, te quiero ver, tú no puedes, lots of tú/yo verbs right next each otherm horas, segundos
Mi paraíso es (Divicio): mamá, papá, amigo, niña, mujer, hija– not my favorite style but kids who like boy bands will love it. Would make a good MovieTalk for talking about the family and home as well.
¿Con quién se queda el perro? (Jesse y Joy): tú te vas, yo me voy, se queda, antes, no hay más remedio
Vienes y te vas (William Luna): vienes, te vas, no soy feliz–poetic license there–, me olvides. It’s an older video, but I’m partial to Peru and love his music.
La bicicleta (Shakira y Carlos Vives): te quiero, voy a hacer, no quiero ser, por ti, puedo ser, le gusta, llévame, óyeme
Unit IV: La comida y las celebraciones
How do we share food and meals?
What do food and celebrations tell us about Hispanic culture and life?
Language: food, ordering at a restaurant, holidays, reinforce super seven, sweet sixteen, and other high-frequency verbs. Input/activities: Canela, La quinceañera, Martina Bex.