Conferences & Professional Learning

FLAG 2023 Reflections & Takeaways

FLAG 2023 was a delight! I learned so much from some amazing teachers from around the state. Here are a few of my takeaways:

For teaching calendar vocab

  • Consider circling or doing calendar talk with a full year calendar
  • Go beyond What day is today, what day is tomorrow, what is the date – what about, is today Monday or Tuesday? Are we in the month of August or September? Is it spring or fall? Yes or no, is today Thursday?
  • Make a birthday chart for additional circling/input of months, When is your birthday?, and building classroom community

On Gradual Release teaching

  • I do, we do together, you do together, you do alone – I haven’t been taught this strategy with these words, but it makes a lot of sense to me – give input, practice with supports/scaffolding, then work up to performing without the scaffolding
  • If we asses them without scaffolding/supports, then they need to practice without scaffolding

“The Road to AP starts in Level 1”

What can I as a middle school/Spanish 1 teacher do to start preparing students for success on the AP exam?

  • Practice cultural comparisons. Give students language and practice to describe their own culture.
  • Talk about proficiency levels, and strategies for jumping a level (ie, using transition words)
  • Give students practice reading charts and graphics. If you teach multiple levels, use the same texts with multiple levels and modify your task to the appropriate level (can also be used to differentiate for advanced/struggling students)
  • Provide listening practice with different voices and accents, as well as listening to passages with background noise
  • Have students practice asking questions, and thinking of questions to continue a dialogue, as they have to ask a question in the simulated conversation task
  • Loved this quote: “I can’t turn you into a native speaker, but I can help you speak in a way that native speakers will understand.”

Interactive notebooks – I’ve mostly chilled out with my notebooks – I don’t have students keep a table of contents or number pages, and I let them write vocab and add handouts how they choose. Here were a couple of tips I may still use with my more laidback notebook expectations:

  • Make a laminated table of contents poster on the wall and give a student the job of updating the poster. I think I can still do this without requiring students to maintain a TOC in their notebooks – more of a list of what goes in your notebook than a true TOC
  • Put desk numbers on the front of notebooks. The first student(s) to arrive to class pass out notebooks to avoid a traffic jam at the notebook shelf.

For more of my conference thoughts, check out my twitter.

Class Activities, Culture

FIFA World Cup 2022 Resources

Who’s excited for the world cup? Me!!!! I´ve been working on a unit for my 6th and 7th grade connections classes with a mix of learning targets for language use in Spanish and cultural understandings in English. I hope you can find something useful!

Lesson plans: lesson plans.docx

Slides: Click here

Song Worksheets:

Vamos a Qatar


Class Activities

Listening Battleship for Home Vocabulary

I´ve been reading Breaking the Sound Barrier: Teaching Language Learners How to Listen by Gianfranco Conti and Steve Smith as a part of my professional learning goal for this year. I’ve been getting a lot of great ideas for how to teach listening, and how to teach grammar and vocabulary through listening. Today, I wanted to share an activity I created based off their activity “Find the object”, described on page 112 of Breaking the Sound Barrier.

find the object listening activity sound barrier p 112.docx

I created this activity for house vocab, but it could work for almost any topic – school schedule, food, and family come immediately to mind. It consists of a battleship-type grid with sentence starters on the vertical axis, and the ends of those sentences on the horizontal axis. As you read different sentences, students will shade in a the corresponding box in the grid. The trick is to plan out the sentences ahead of time, so that the shaded in boxes form a an object. The game ends when the first student correctly guesses the hidden object.

On second thought, maybe I should move some of these around so they aren’t washing their hands in the dining room and eating dinner in the garage

What unit would you use this for? I’d love to see your grids!

Sp 1 Unit 3: What do you like to do?

An Update & Google Drive Links

Hello, blog! It’s been awhile!

Quick update: I’m a middle school teacher now! I’m teaching 6th and 7th grade connections and 8th grade Spanish 1. I love the school (it’s a feeder to the high school I taught at for seven years), I love my principal, and I love my students! Every day is different and brings new challenges, but overall it’s been a great change for me.

On the blog: I’m getting lots of notifications about Google doc links not working. It seems that Google did a security update that invalidated all my previous share links. YAY! 😭 I’m trying to give access and update the links as I’m notified, but if you find one that doesn’t work let me know.

And here’s freebie since it’s been awhile: activities vocab sheet – label with Spanish, play the find it game, or project it on the board and play fly swatters.

Class Activities, Music in Spanish Class

Música Miércoles – Nuquí, ChocQuibTown

I love this song mostly because Gloria Martinez has a beautiful voice and I could listen to her sing all day long, but the gorgeous beaches in the video don’t hurt either! I did some frantic edits to my Spanish 2 preterite focused lyrics activity Wednesday morning to make a more Spanish 1-friendly activity, and I was pleasantly surprised that my students found the song easy to follow along with, and it even got a few five-star ratings.

Conferences & Professional Learning, Teaching in Quarantine

Webinar Notes: Virtual and F2F Engagement with Marcy Webb

FLAG is currently offering a fabulous free webinar series for World Language Teachers. I recently watched Marcy Webb’s session on Virtual and F2F engagement. You can watch the recording here, and check out upcoming webinars here.

My notes on the webinar:

  • Importance of vertical alignment, especially in this teaching environment – acknowledging that we can’t achieve the same results as in past years, meeting students where they are, and selecting curriculum and resources appropriate for the digital environment and skipping activities/topics that don’t translate well to virtual teaching
  • There was some discussion on cameras on/cameras off – I enjoyed hearing the host and presenter’s perspective, which was that cameras on aren’t necessary for engagement, and cameras off for student safety/comfort was acceptable, and even preferable for them. A lot of it stemmed from Zoom bombing issues/student on-camera mischief that the host experienced at her school, and I am grateful once again that my district is using Teams and that our students do not have any blanket of anonymity as to their behavior in video meetings.  
  • Engagement in the digital environment is more than just interacting during synchronous meetings – it also includes submitting work, asynchronous communication (like Schoology messages), and students responding to our feedback.
  • Engagement stems from a positive relationship and trust in the teacher. We will need to work harder to build relationships with our DLs (distance learners). One easy way to make DLs feel seen/included is by greeting each DL by name as they join the meeting. Some of the small talk that we normally do about sports/extra curriculars may be harder to achieve with the DLs, but perhaps conducting interest inventories could give us some insights on what to say to DLs to make them feel seen. I also heard of a roll taking strategy another teacher at my school uses – a quick preference question during attendance, like “Coke or Pepsi?” “Turkey or ham?” – something quick and simple to give our DLs a chance to show their personality
  • Activities: switch things up with lots of different apps and websites or stick to a few oldies but goodies? I think we all have to find our own balance of novelty and familiarity that works for our us as teachers and for our students. I recently tried (alternative for the individual whiteboard activities we do) and really liked it – I blogged about it here. I also checked out, which is a website for creating interactive worksheets. I decided Wizer wasn’t for me, at least not yet – my interactive worksheet needs are being met with Schoology quizzes and Kami for PDF annotation. The presenters also mentioned PearDeck, NearPod, GoFormative, Socrative, and JamBoard, which I may check out at some point in the future.

How do you know your distance learners are engaged? What are your best strategies for building relationships in the virtual classroom?

Class Activities, EdTech, Teaching in Quarantine

DL Friendly Bingo with Whiteboard.Fi

I heard about in a recent FLAG webinar on student engagement. I love using whiteboard activities in my face to face classes, and I wondered if it could serve as an alternative for my distance learners.

With, students join with a code and get a blank screen to draw on, create text boxes, and insert shapes and images. You can see all your students’ boards simultaneously, updating in real time. There is also a feature where you can create text or images on your teacher whiteboard, and push it out to all your students. For more info on how to use, check out this tutorial.

Playing Bingo

I created a room, invited my students to join, and pushed out a blank Bingo board to all their screens. A few students joined late, and I told them just to use the insert image feature to add their own blank Bingo boards. Since we are working on time vocab, I had them fill their own boards with times ending in :00, :15, and :30. When they were ready, I started calling out times, and they marked the spaces with the draw tool. To replay with the same board, students can just click undo until all their marks from the previous game are erased.

A few of my students Bingo boards – names covered for privacy

I really liked this activity for several reasons – it included all my students, and allowed me to do one of my favorite activities from pre-COVID times. has a lot of safety features as well, like turning on a lobby and locking the room once all your students have joined. You can project students’ boards on your classroom whiteboard (and/or screenshare on your video call), show or hide student names, or just view their whiteboards on your monitor if you don’t trust students to keep things school-appropriate. I’ve also used this site as an end of class formative assessment, having students respond to questions or statements (ie, how do you respond to ¿Cómo estás? how do you respond to mucho gusto?), or given students drawing questions with our vocabulary words like lápiz, bolígrafo, cuaderno. I think this could also work for playing Pictionary, as well as a quick practice activity for grammar topics like verbs or adjective agreement.

Classroom Management & Organization, Teaching in Quarantine

Organization Strategies for Hybrid Teaching

This year has been a lot. In many ways, I feel like a first year teacher all over again, creating new materials and trying new teaching strategies. I’ve also found that the systems I previously used to keep myself organized with attendance, grades, and other administrative tasks are inadequate, and again, I’ve had to find new solutions. Here are a few strategies that I’m using to keep organized in COVID times.

The setting: Concurrently teaching students in the classroom and online via Teams, students submit work through Schoology

Attendance: I’ve never bothered to keep paper copies of attendance, but this year, I do. I print off rosters from Powerschool every two weeks. If a student is on Teams, I mark DL, and for classroom learners, I write down their seat numbers. I draw a box around missing students in case they show up tardy (the box is also great because it is easier for me to see when I enter attendance in Powerschool). By keeping it on paper, I have a record of who is actually showing up on Teams, and I also have documentation of who sat where on what date for contact tracing.

Agenda and Learning Targets: I post this as an assignment on Schoology, in a special folder called “Daily Agenda”. This is my default screen share for the beginning of Teams meetings. Sometimes I’ll attach handouts or link activities in the agenda. This helps keep my unit folders less cluttered.

Grading: I’m spending a lot of time chasing down student work. Here again, I use the roster print out from Powerschool. Schoology assignments are easy to sync to the gradebook, but often I am checking for work on many different websites, such as Flipgrid, Quizlet, and Señor Wooly. I use the roster to check off submissions or write down grades, and around once a week I send students individual Schoology messages with a list of missing assignments, which has been effective in getting students to complete assignments.

How have you adapted your organization strategies for teaching in COVID times?

Classroom Management & Organization, Teaching in Quarantine

The Beauty of the Grade Change Form

Ms. Brown, I redid that assignment, will you change my grade?

Ms. Brown, I still have a zero in Powerschool for the quiz I made up last week.

Ms. Brown, I finally submitted the assignment that was due two weeks ago, can you grade it please?

Late work, make up work, re-done work: I may get a notification in Schoology, but that doesn’t mean I will remember to update it in PowerSchool. And I certainly can’t stop in the middle of class to update a grade, nor can I be counted on to remember by the time my planning period rolls around.

Would you please fill out the grade change form?”

The grade change form puts the responsibility on the student to notify me of the issue, and sends me an email I can deal with on my planning period. It lives at the top of my Schoology page, so it is easily accessible to students. Between distance learners, classroom learners, and quarantined learners, I have a lot to keep up with, but the grade change form gives me an easy way to keep up with make up work, and makes one less thing to keep track of in my overworked brain.

Gracias to Elsie Ratcliff for sharing this idea in her fabulous webinar with Jamie Vega. You can find the link to their presentation “Tips for Easy Unit Planning during Digital Learning​” on the Georgia World Languages Professional Development page.