Culture, Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela

School Unit Videos

The school unit in Spanish 1 offers tons of opportunities for incorporating culture and making cultural comparisons. I made a playlist of videos around the topic of school that I’ve been using with my Spanish 1 students. Here’s some ideas for how you can use them:

  1. Movie talk the What a Classroom Looks like, School Lunches, or School Uniforms videos. Ask simple questions: ¿Qué es esto? ¿Cuántos años tiene? ¿Quién es el profesor? ¿De qué color es? ¿Tienen mucho dinero o poco dinero?
  2. Use as a warm up or closing activity. Watch and discuss what you see. Have students write down thoughts, or ask a guiding question before watching – what is simliar/what is different? What surprises you? What questions do you have?
  3. Examine bias. This is a great cross-curricular connection. Who made this video? Why did they make it? Are they biased or neutral? Remind them that even if they spot bias, they can still learn something about life/school in that country.

I’m also loving the music video for “La Magia” by Little Jesus. Kara Jacobs shared a wealth of resources on her blog, including a story based on the music video. I recommend that you read the story before watching the video!

For more ideas for the school unit, here are all my school unit posts. What are your favorite school unit resources? What videos should I add to my playlist?

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 1: Greetings/goodbyes/ numbers/calendar

Vocabulary Charades: Quick & Easy with Quizlet

Charades is a great way for students to review vocabulary in the target language while building classroom community. My secret for making it awesome while preserving prep time? Quizlet!

Step 1: Assemble your list of words. I like to throw in some challenge words that may not seem immedaitely pantomime-able (“It’s 2:10” and “apple” were ones that surprised my kids, but they eventually figured out how to act out). Maybe you already have it in Quizlet, or maybe you want to type it in a Word document and import it as a new Quizlet. Or maybe you just want to use mine? Here ya go:

Realidades Para Empezar Pantomime-able vocab

Realidades 1A Pantomime-able Vocab


Step 2: Print as flashcards. I’ve written before about why I love Quizlet, and the printing feature is a big reason! Print your words on the large or small flashcards. Check the two sided box so it prints the Spanish all on one page, but if you don’t want the English on the back, just adjust your printer to print one sided and skip the even numbered pages.

Step 3: Cut out your flashcards, or have a student do it for you. Assemble into baggies. Add directions, if you like. charades instructions (word)

Baggies are great for storing, while the buckets are great while students are playing – draw from one bucket and discard to the other.


Step 4: Divide your students into groups and play! Three groups of 8-10 players worked well with my students. 

Need some ideas for gestures to use? Here’s a video:


Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 1: Greetings/goodbyes/ numbers/calendar, Uncategorized

Explora Español – Choice Board Language Exploration Stations for Spanish 1

Last year I implemented portfolios in Honors Spanish 1, with choiceboard exploration activities as a major component. I’m back at it again with a fresh batch of students, with my ideas from last year ironed out and refined. Here’s what we did:

Choiceboard instructions – PDF — WORD


Option 1 – Magnetic Poetry – play with the words

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Last year, I kept my magnets on my mini fridge all year. It was awkward because students had to sit on the floor for the activity, and my magnets got bumped off the fridge all year. The overhead cart may not be pretty, but it worked great for this activity!

Option 2 – Spelling – play with the letters


Option 3 – Lyrics Training – play with music & lyrics

lyrics training.PNG

For lyrics training, students had a choice between La Gozadera (really difficult!) and Tengo tu love. Unfortunately, Tengo tu love was blocked by the school filter, so La Gozadera was their only option. Here are some of their reflections:

I found it very difficult to find the lyrics to the song. They speak very fast, and you have to listen very carefully in order to catch it. However, I found it as a good brain workout, and it became much easier at the end.

After doing the lyrics training, I started to make connections in my head. I was able to distinguish between Spanish words more easily and hear words at a faster rate than before. After making several attempts, I noticed patterns and picked up the pronunciation of specific words. I definitely would like to do this with different songs.

Option 4 – Book browsing – read the books

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I have a pretty good selection of easy readers & children’s books in my classroom library. Even though I tell them the novels will be easier, they always gravitate toward the children’s books! Here’s a reflection:

The title of the book I chose is called, “Oh no! It’s Hippo!” The short story I read was about a hippo, who was made fun of because he was fat. The other animals in the jungle make fun of him, and scare him away from the pond. I learned that ‘hipo’ in Spanish means hippo, and hiccup. This activity was hard, because I had to translate what the book said. This was a valuable learning activity for me, because I learned a lot of new words. My goal going forward is to comprehend a page in the book.



After the activities, I have students take a picture or screen shot a write a reflection on their learning and their language goals. I really enjoy reading these! We repeat these activities a couple times a semester, and it’s so exciting to see how much they grow over the course of the class. Especially in honors, I want to empower students to use Spanish for enjoyment, and not just see it as something they are doing for a grade. I think these activities also support state standards – Students will identify situations and resources in which target language skills and cultural knowledge may be applied beyond the classroom setting, for recreational, educational, and occupational purposes. (MLI.CC5) – As well as ACTFL standards – Students show evidence of becoming life-long learners by using the language for personal enjoyment and enrichment. 

Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela

Mi día en la escuela: Comparing Class Schedules

Adobe Spark (5)

My students are currently learning school vocabulary, and my authentic resource activities were in desperate need of an update. I decided I wanted my students to do an activity comparing schedules of schools in Spanish speaking countries and their own (find my activity at the bottom of this post!). I asked one of my teacher groups on facebook if anyone had such an activity to share, and someone from my grad program shared this gem of a website with me:

school schedules in Spanish

If you click on the gallery link in the right hand corner, you will find 15 school schedules from various Spanish speaking countries, compiled by one of the Auburn foreign language education graduate assistants. ¡Muchas gracias, amiga!

I decided that rather than trying to print out the schedules, I would have students view them on their computer. For pre-reading, I had students discuss their ideal school schedule in  small groups, with a list of questions in Spanish to guide them:

discussion questions

After group discussions, we briefly shared out to the whole class. Next, I had students draw a number from 1-15. They were not allowed to have the same number as someone else in  their group. The number corresponded to one of the schedules on the Wix site. For their “during reading” activity, students answered questions about their assigned schedule. For post-reading, they discussed what they learned with their group and answered some reflection questions: How were the schedules similar or different from their own school schedule? What schedule would they like best? I also had students write questions down on sticky notes. I took these up and answered them at the end of class as a closing activity:









If you would like to use my activity, you can find it here. If you improve on it, please share it back with me!

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 1: Greetings/goodbyes/ numbers/calendar


Hello, and welcome back to school! Today I want to share an activity I made today for my Spanish 1 students based on a video from one of my favorite sites for authentic Spanish audio,

This is José M. Isn’t he precious?

I like this video because the content fits with my first unit of Spanish 1 and José M. speaks clearly and relatively slowly. But what to do with it? Here’s what I came up with:

José M

Follow along as you listen, and correct the errors. After printing, I numbered the lines and students have this follow up task:

jose m 2

Simple, quick, comprehensible. Here is the link to José’s video and here is the activity, if you would like to use it.


Previous #Authres Posts:

Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela, Teaching Reflections

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. 


Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?

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.

Ideas by topic, Sp 1 Unit 5: ¿Qué te gusta comer?

Reading Instruction in the TL: Menú Vips


My grad school course this semester is all about TL reading instruction. It’s fascinating! Our big project this semester is to put together a thematic unit with reading lessons for four different authentic resources. I finished my first lesson last week and I would like to share it with you all! For my first lesson, I decided to use the children’s menu from the Mexican restaurant chain Vips. You can find it here on their website, or here in PDF. I taught this lesson to my Spanish 1 students  after spending 2 days introducing food vocabulary. The activities include a gallery walk, two videos (to provide context for the restaurant), vocabulary activities, and currency conversion activities. It took me two 80 minute blocks to complete the whole sequence. I hope you (and my professor!) like it 🙂 I actually recorded my class on day 1, so if you are interested in seeing the video (I taught 90%+ in Spanish!), please send me an email and I’d be glad to share the video with you as well.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 15.53.38

Lesson Plan

Student Activity Sheet

Sp 1 Unit 5: ¿Qué te gusta comer?

Teaching vocab with CI: Bebidas Edition

I had a grad school seminar this past weekend (aka class aaaallllll weekend) and despite the stress and hassle, I have to say it was very beneficial. My mind is buzzing with ideas for assessment, teaching, and generally with language learning paradigms. My big epiphany from the weekend (don’t judge!): for students to gain any kind of useable proficiency, it is essential to use the language in class! I always start the year out strong with speaking lots of Spanish, but as the semester progresses my TL use has slipped lower and lower.

Today, my goal was to introduce new vocabulary with minimal use of English. My professor advocates for comprehensible input, but furthermore, for not translating vocabulary – no English, ever. This rubbed me wrong a bit in our first seminar – well, I think English is useful for establishing meaning, let’s avoid the guessing games, ACTFL’s recommendation is 90% TL – but I also know that I speak way too much English in class, so I wanted to see how much I could do in Spanish, establishing meaning in other ways. Here’s what I did:

Spanish 1

I’m starting Realidades chapter 3a, which is the food chapter. I decided to start with drinks, mainly because I saw a great demo by Lee Burson and Erin Smith at FLAG a few years ago, which gave me a good idea of how to get lots of reps. I gave them a handout with some glasses and mugs, with lines to write their vocab at the bottom. I modeled on the doc cam, writing the word on the blank, and then coloring the appropriate cup to represent the drink. Throughout, I asked questions, starting with te gusta questions, continuing with ¿Bebes _____ en el desayuno?, comparison questions (¿Prefieres jugo de naranja o jugo de manzana?), and open ended questions – ¿Qué tipo de refresco prefieres? ¿Qué bebes en el almuerzo? I had a plastic apple and orange that helped establish meaning for apple and orange juice, we drew a cow for leche, for refresco I gave brand name examples, and té dulce I gave a quick translation for. Minimal English? Check!  Engaging? Kind of. I really have a great group of kids first period, who put up with the amount of questions I asked with out getting too squirrelly, but it would not work (or at least for not as long) with my 4th block group. After all the listening and sitting still, I gave them a simple survey activity to complete with a few classmates – ¿Bebes _________?/Sí, mucho/a veces/todos los días/No, nunca.  I had to translate the frequency phrases, but they definitely needed a change of pace and this worked well.

drinks 2drinks 1


Las bebidas handout

drinks speaking activity

Spanish 2 to come tomorrow!

Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela

Talking about our [fake] schedules

In Spanish 1, I’m currently teaching the school unit (Realidades 1 Chapter 2a) My school switched to block schedule this year, so with my students only having four classes, my usual context for practicing ordinal numbers no longer works. So, today we made fake schedules and talked about them.

Step 1: Make fake schedules

schedule template

I printed out my class vocabulary and electives list from Quizlet as flashcards and divided them into 8 buckets (my students currently sit in groups of 4). Students drew a class from the bucket and wrote it into their schedule, and added a teacher.

Fake schedule template here.

Step 2: Discuss

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I gave students a list of questions and put on an interval timer. Each group picked a leader who asked questions from the list. When the timer beeped, they rotated leaders. After a few minutes, I took over the questioning (to the whole class). I projected Class Dojo on the board and had a student use the interactive pen to assign points (doing this on the projector works GREAT because the other students make sure the score keeper is accurate).

Step 3: Repeat

I was pleased with the participation in this activity, but some of the pronunciation was not so good – not surprisingly because we haven’t worked extensively on these questions yet. So I typed up the questions in Quizlet. Tomorrow, I’m going to get someone in each group to pull up the Quizlet set on their phone or tablet (or lend them my laptop or let them sit at my desk if no one in the group has a device). We’ll shuffle the questions, and let Quizlet ask the questions instead of the students! Next semester, I’ll have Quizlet ask the questions on day 1 and let students as the questions on day 2.

If you want a word document of my questions, here is the link.  I wrote 42 questions because that’s how many blocks are in my $3 Jenga knock-off “Jumbling Towers,” so the list can do double duty if we do stations this unit.


PS – My kiddos are ROCKING the groups of 4. I love it.

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