Thoughts on Stations and Games: Homecoming Week Edition

Homecoming week started last Thursday. Friday was “Movie Star” Day:


Ninja tutus.

Between the chaos and costumes of homecoming week, plus the interruption of fall break in the middle, plus just being at the point in the semester where I am tired, we’ve been playing a lot games in class. I’ve written before about using games the day before a break to engage students with language, and I wanted to share a few more ideas.

  • Stations do not have to have rigid timing and rotation. Some games/activities take more time than others, and that’s okay. If students are enjoying an activity and using language, I am happy to let them keep that activity until it is no longer engaging. Also, whenever I do stations where students physically move from one area to the next, a lot of time is wasted with transitions and my dear students treat me to a lovely chorus of whines. So, I’ve found that often it works just as well to move the activities around, and let students stay put. I circulate constantly (and get tons of steps on my imaginary FitBit) and offer to trade out activities when one seems to have run its course.
  • You need more activities than groups, but they don’t all have to be different activities. If it’s okay for students to spend twenty minutes playing one game, they aren’t going to have to do eight different stations. That’s fine. However, it helps to have multiples of games if they do take a long time to play. For example, I made two sets these Halloween preposition cards for a Go Fish station. Students really enjoyed playing it, and having multiples of the same set made it possible for more students to play. Also, having extra games makes it easier to keep everyone busy when groups are finishing at different times.
  • All your stations cannot be high prep. I made three different sets of custom cards for stations today. That was a lot of work to make, even with help from several students with the cutting. Having other games handy that do not require any more work than getting it out of the closet like As, Dos, Tres or Verba,  will save your sanity.
  • That being said, Quizlet makes printing cards super easy. I waste so much time finding pictures, pasting them into a word document, resizing, and formatting when I make my own picture, word, or sentence cards. If you make it as a set in Quizlet, you can add pictures and print flash cards without having to mess with the formatting.
  • If you invest the time to teach students to play it, then use it more than once. I saw an idea on Mis Clases Locas about playing Old Maid with countries and capitals. Great idea! Then I realized I had printed and laminated the cards without including an old maid. And then realized I didn’t even remember how to play old maid. And then I remember that we had played spoons on our game day last Friday, and that was basically the same thing! So that’s what we did, and I didn’t have to spend time explaining the rules to a new game.
  • For weeks like this, I am ok with “just” playing with language. It takes a lot of thought and prep time to prepare multiple engaging stations activities around the same content. So today I made an effort to start students on an activity related to our current topic, but if they want to play As, Dos, Tres or Spot It in Spanish, that’s fine with me too.
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Sometimes things are hard

I am having a week where everything feels hard (and it’s only Tuesday). Deciding what activities to do, planning enough for our 90-minute block schedule, and just sitting down to tackle the pile of grading has gotten really hard. And then there’s the elephant in the room: straddling the moat between grammar-driven and proficiency models of curriculum is really hard. I keep finding myself asking, Why am I even doing this?

(Note: I wrote that paragraph a week ago. It’s Tuesday again, and things are still hard.)

I’ve begun teaching conjugation this week. I know direct grammar instruction is out of style, but I have reasons (departmental colleagues who will teach many of my babies in Spanish 2 and  3), so I’m going to write about how I’m trying to teach grammar better – specifically those conjugations and verb paradigms they will NEED to have mastered to be successful in Spanish 2 at my school.

Step 1: Preview 3rd person singular and plural forms with Soy yo.

Have you seen this video? I love this song so much!

I also love every resource Kara Jacobs has ever published, and her Soy yo activities are no exception. At the link above, she has activities centered around the story of the video: The girl likes her hair. She rides a bike. The  two mean girls don’t like her. The girl plays her flute. The mean girls don’t like the music and leave. The girl dances. The girl enters a basketball court. She steals the ball and plays. The boys look at her. The girl leaves. The girl sees boys who are dancing. The girl looks at the boys. The boys look at the girl. The girl dances. The girl leaves with her father.

This story came at a great time for me – finishing up Me gusta + Infinitives, so the vocab and reps of le gusta/les gusta was perfect. What was also perfect was how this song gave a great opportunity to preview 3rd person singular and plural verb forms. La chica juega or juegan al básquetbol? Insert pop-up grammar about how makes a verb plural.

Step 2: Teach conjugations, but not the whole paradigm at once, keep it visual, and save pronouns for later

My grad school professor, Dr. Barry, taught us the Lee and VanPatten method: teach grammar through comprehensible input, and only teach 1 concept at a time. By one concept, she mean just 3rd person singular verb forms, not all six boxes on the present tense chart. I felt like they could handle more, so we’ve been working mostly on 3rd person singular and plural forms, as well as a little bit of 1st person singular. For the Realidades readers, I’m teaching the vocabulary in chapter 2B – things in the classroom and prepositions of location with the verb estar. Almost everything we practice with is visual, either based on a picture or our own classroom. I’m asking questions like, El reloj está o están? Los libros está o están? The singularity or plurality of the subject is something visual, not just an s at the end o the word on paper they have to imagine. So we transfer from there to talking about los chicos, las chicas, los estudiantes, la profesora. We are using a few forms of estar, as well as some of those What do you like to do? verbs from the chapter 1a vocabulary.

In the past, I have taught conjugations with pronouns (yo, tú, él, ella, etc) and then sprinkled nouns and proper nouns later. Some students got it, some were totally thrown off. I would also always start with people as subjects, and kids would be totally confused when they got a sentence in chapter three like Las uvas ____ buenas. So I decided to start teaching verb forms with nouns first, and then add in the pronouns when they were comfortable talking about las banderas, el reloj, la profesora, mi amigo.

Step 3: Sprinkle in some pronouns once they’ve got the singular/plural thing down. Keep it visual.

My students have seen most of the singular pronouns already in various activities and readings. So we started with a matching activity I printed off from Quizlet. I wanted to see how much they could figure out on their own, and also see if they could make the jump from Usted to Ustedes and from ella to ellas. They did pretty well, and we went over it afterwards and talked about the pictures (talking TO someone vs. talking ABOUT them). Next, still keeping my focus on 3rd person verb forms, we did this page in our notebook:


Left side is one person doing the action, right side is multiple people.



First, we labeled each picture to the side with él, ella, ellos, or ellas. Then, I gave them an infinitive bank and asked them to to label each picture with the correct form of the verb. I was really impressed with how many students got the juega and duerme forms correct – they have seen it enough times in class (especially juega from the Soy yo activities), and they just knew it without needing an explanation about stem changers and boot verbs.

Step 4: Continue to practice, and add in the rest of the forms slowly, visually, and in context. Give lots and lots of input.

I really don’t like teaching conjugation explicitly, as it necessitates so much time spent on grammar explanations in English (NOT engaging) and so often still results in frustrated and confused students. I am quite happy with how my students are doing so far with these re-paced lesson plans.In the next week or so, I want to figure out some more stories to tell my students to model and contextualize the remaining forms (2nd person and 1st person plural). I’m not super comfortable with storytelling or TPRS, so this is hard for me, but I think a bit of teacher-led input/storytelling along with lots of supported reading input will be a big step forward.

I’m not as good as I want to be yet. But I´m better than I used to be. 


Posted in Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Authentic Audio: Physical Descriptions

Two of my favorite resources for audio are Audio Lingua and Spanish Proficiency Exercises. Each of these sites has audio organized by topic, so it is easy to find something that works with your unit. Since Spanish Proficiency Exercises includes transcripts with the videos, it is very easy to create cloze activities to go with the audio.

I’ve been using a simple cloze activity with this set of videos for years, but I changed the activity around bit this time and was quite pleased with the result.


Cloze, sequencing, and comprehension questions all in one. 

Since my students each have a brand new laptop (we are finally 1:1! HOORAY!), I posted the audio on Schoology and let them complete the activities independently (both Audio Lingua and Spanish Proficiency Exercises include download links). We did a practice run as a whole class with the script for Deysibeth projected on the board, and then I set them loose to complete the rest of it on their own or with a partner. I haven’t tried doing audio activities independently very often in the past, so I was pleasantly surprised to notice that my students not only interacted with the audio more, playing it over and over again in an attempt to catch the deleted words, but were so much more engaged than they are when we do audio as a whole class. I also think adding the sequencing activity worked well, as it was easier than the cloze and gave students a sense of success. And, as always when using audio from native speakers, I love how this exposes students to different voices, different accents and rhythms of speech, as well as a wider variety of vocab (ojos pardos, bajito, peludo…the list goes on).

Here is the link to the activity if you would like to use it. The videos are linked above, as well as at the bottom of the activity.

Posted in Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?, Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments

Back to School, Year 7

Hello Everyone! Happy back to school! I am on my second full week and am really enjoying my students. This semester I have three sections of Spanish 1 on a block schedule and am really liking this one prep thing! In this post I want to share a few things I’m loving this (seventh!) back to school season:

New Bulletin Boards

IMG_20160815_163549I finally put up a cute Boggle bulletin board (I’ve had it pinned about two years) as well as a cognate board. My Boggle board is modeled off of Señora Dentlinger, and you can download the files for my cognate board here and here.

IMG_20160815_163038 A second bookcase – student supplies

As you can see above, I now have two bookcases in my classroom. I didn’t really have a good place to permanently store supplies for students last year, so I am loving this extra storage space.


Top shelf: Signs with our school’s theme for the year, in a place students will see them. Second shelf: glue, hole puncher, scissors, and turn-in boxes. Third shelf: Writing utensils – markers, extra pens and pencils, pencil sharpeners, colored pencils, and crayons. Fourth Shelf: mini white boards and markers on the left, extra handouts on the right Fifth shelf: Dictionaries.

The make up work box


The make-up work/extra handouts box is a black crate I bought at walmart last year. Did you know these crates are exactly the right size for hanging folders? They fit a standard hanging folder short-ways, and a legal size folder long-ways. In the past I have tried make up work boxes with folders for days or weeks, but it quickly became disorganized. So far, unit folders have been easy for me to maintain (ok, I’m only on the first unit) and won’t require re-filing until the end of the semester. Having a designated place for extra handouts has really helped me with keeping my room tidy, as well as when students ask me about make up work (am I the only teacher who can’t remember what I taught yesterday?).


IMG_20160815_063222IMG_20160801_180106Lularoe is a home sales clothing line, similar to Avon or Mary Kay. I love their clothes because they are modest, comfortable and cute, and make getting dressed on those early school mornings so much easier. My favorite pieces are the maxi skirt, the Nicole dress (green dress pictured above), and the Amelia dress (black and white pictured above-  my favorite because it has pockets!) If you need some good back-to-school clothes, I’d be glad to point you to some awesome Lularoe shopping groups on Facebook.

This guy


On a personal note, meet my fiancee! Daniel and I will be getting married next March🙂


Happy back to school! What are you loving this August?

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¿Con quién se queda el perro?

In celebration of teacher appreciation week, I treated myself to a shopping spree on TPT today. Among my purchases was this song bundle from Kristy Placido. In the bundle, I came across activities for Jesse and Joy’s ¿Con quién se queda el perro? As soon as I read the lyrics I knew I wanted to use this song, today! It could fit in the curriculum so many different ways – with the family unit? with Brandon Brown Quiere Un Perro? When you teach ir, poder, querer?  (I happen to teaching Realidades Chapter 4a which includes a focus on the verb ir, as well as question words including ¿Con quién? so this song was so perfect!) In the bundle, Kristy included a story based on the events in the song/video. I decided to start with the story, as it was a good opportunity to provide input and support for understanding the lyrics. I made a slideshow with screen shots from the video to comprehensify the story. (I also made a Quizlet set with some key words from the song, but didn’t end up using it today. Maybe tomorrow?)

I followed the basic story frame from Kristy’s activities (go buy it! it’s worth it!), but simplified a bit to make it comprehensible to my students. After the story, I gave students a handout with a summary of the story. On the board, I projected a number of small pictures (mostly video screenshots) with a letter next to each one, and students matched each picture to one of the sentences. After that, we finally listened to the song and watched the whole video* (they had figured out it was a video after seeing the red youtube bar on the bottom of one of the pictures), and completed the cloze exercise from Kristy’s bundle. Students were interested and engaged throughout the lesson, and really seemed to enjoy both the story and the song. Gracias, Kristy!

*Note: There are about 3 seconds of suggestive scenes in the video which may not be appropriate for your students or school culture. 

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Five for Friday: Things I’m grateful for this week

Sometimes it’s hard to maintain a good attitude so close to the end of the year, as kids are getting ever more squirrelly and standardized testing looms. I want to take a moment to focus on the positive and share a few successes from the week. So, with no further ado, here are some things I’m feeling grateful for today:

  1. Zombie Sub plans from Martina Bex.  I had to be absent yesterday and was looking through my files for something easy (for me) to leave for Spanish 1. I bought these plans two years ago and they were perfect. It is so nice to have something ready made! Worth. every. penny.
  2. Mrs. Hill: Can I just pause and say I’m thankful for my sub? She was a dream. The kids liked her, she made them work, and she used the checklist I left her and marked off who turned in their work, with helpful notes like absent or a percentage and exactly what they completed and didn’t complete. I hate spending my time grading completion assignments, but I ALWAYS take a grade for sub work because I don’t want my students slacking off while I’m gone. This made it so easy to assign classwork grades and quickly enter them in Power School.
  3. Being organized enough to leave a sub binder:20160429_135741

    I never miss work, so I didn’t already have my sub binder put together, but I was able to assemble one quickly on Wednesday with my schedule, instructions for the sub, and dividers for each class with the roster and seating chart. I asked Mrs. Hill to hole punch the students’ work and put it in the appropriate section of the binder, so when I came back to work today, there weren’t piles of papers all over my desk – just one neat binder.

  4. DRESS DOWN TICKETS. The relay for life team is selling dress down tickets good for the REST OF THE YEAR! It’s the little things, y’all, and I sure am grateful to be able to wear jeans all of May!
  5. Reflection. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to post my lesson reflections on this blog, because I don’t want to share something that makes me look silly and stupid! But I think reflection is important, so since spring break, I’ve challenged myself to write something in my planner everyday about how my classes we did. Usually it’s a list of activities and a sentence or two reflection – nothing too long! – but just enough so that I’ll have something to look back on when I teach these units next year.
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#FridayBeforeSpringBreak: Game Day!

Or, alternatively, how to ace your observation with minimal prep on the day before a break🙂

With the high absenteeism typical for the day before a break, today was the perfect day to pull out my collection of games! I divided students into groups of four or five and after a brief intro, gave each group one of the following games to play. I walked around, answered questions, and played along! It was the perfect #fridaybeforespringbreak.🙂

The games:

  1. As, Dos, Tres.  – a counting game I learned in Costa Rica, kind of like War or ERS.
  2. Pensante – a few years ago a friend gave me a copy of Pensante, which is basically Spanish scrabble. I handed the game to one group along with a stack of dictionaries. I let them make up their own rules from there (trading letters, taking as many as they wanted, hunting for words in the dictionary…) as long as they played words in Spanish.
  3. Lotería – I found a couple of sets of Lotería in the department’s supply closet last May. What??? Why aren´t these being used? Well, I opened one up and realized it was probably because some of the pictures aren’t quite school appropriate – El borracho? El negrito? And really, La sirenita, would it be too much to put some sea shells on? So I cut up a few cards and taped them back together until I had 10 school appropriate lotería cards, and Voila! a station🙂
  4. Verba – I have one “real” set and one print & play set I printed, laminated, and laboriously cut apart during post planning last summer at our local Teacher’s Resource Center. My students really enjoyed it! I just told them it was like Spanish Apples to Apples or Cards against humanity, and they took it from there. I used it in two big groups yesterday in Spanish 1 after my students finished a test, but I think it was even better in the small groups (4-5) that we did today.

    Big groups for Verba in Spanish 1

  5. Spot it – I started class today previewing spot it vocab with this set on Quizlet. I printed out some flash cards and had students cut them into a matching game, we ran through a few rounds of Scatter, and played some Quizlet live. Then I called a representative from each group and demo’d with them how to play. So fun! I gave the game to one group, along with a print out of the vocab from Quizlet. They were really into it!

These pictures do not adequately convey the intensity of this game!

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