Thoughts on becoming Señora Brown

The theme of this semester has been “I’m getting married!” And in the stress of working full time, pursuing my master’s degree, and this poisonous post-truth political atmosphere, I have been walking through the halls smiling every day, because I am deeply happy.


The bachelorette in the coolest home made tiara ever

My principal encourages us to share of ourselves with our students – show who we are as people as we get to know them as individuals as well. And so, it has been a joy to share my personal happiness with my students this semester.

  • Telling my Spanish 2 students. Back in January on the second or third day of class, I decided to introduce myself to my level 2 students with a few photos and some CI. I had taught maybe half of the students in Spanish 1 the previous semester or previous year, but the rest were brand new to me. I began with a picture of my very caucasion family and explained slowly my age, where I was from, that I learned Spanish in school and by traveling, that my family speaks English but my father studied Spanish and now my mom does too (her duolingo streak is in the 100s), that I went to Berry College and studied in Spain and Costa Rica, that I still like to travel, and a bit about my teaching experience. I flipped through a few pictures from the slides I use in my family unit, until I got to the photo of Daniel and me I had finally decided to include after 18 months of dating (well, they all want to talk about their novios too, right?). I held up my ring and said Es mi novio…pero ahora es mi futuro esposo. The shrieks of joy from the girls I had taught the previous spring in Spanish 1, who I never got a chance to tell because Daniel proposed to me the day after the last day of school… glorious.
  • The countdown on the board.


    Wooly Week: #boDANdrea, 45 days to go

    One of the first wedding details Daniel and I nailed down was our hashtag, because PRIORITIES. And so boda (wedding in Spanish), Daniel, and Andrea quickly morphed into #boDANdrea, and about mid January I threw it up on my whiteboard, added a bookmark in Chrome for Days Until, and began keeping a daily countdown. I have students, both male and female, who check the countdown as soon as they walk in my class, remind me of it – Only 43 more days, Ms. Brown! Are you excited?, and let me know if I have forgotten to change it – Ms.  Brown, I think it’s 37 now, it was 39 two days ago. And that time when a student asked me if I had graded their tests, and another replied, Of course she hasn’t, she’s planning a wedding! Priceless. I love this countdown so much, I think I’m going to have to replace it with a #graduaciónclasede2017 countdown when #boDANdrea gets to zero.

  • Checking the forecast together.

    I tweeted earlier this week that since my wedding had finally entered the ten-day forecast window, I was ready to teach weather phrases. And so Thursday and Friday I grabbed a screen shot of the forecast and projected it on the board with two questions in Spanish as a warm up – What’s the weather today? What’s the forecast for my wedding? You better believe we’re gonna do it every day next week, and their going to have the link on Schoology to check when I’m out taking midterms and getting my nails done Thursday and Friday.

  • The conversations it brings up. Señorita Brown, what’s your new name going to be? Still Ms. Brown, but I guess I’ll have to graduate to Señora. Do you and your fiance speak in Spanish? Yes, sometimes. We are bilingual so we have twice as many words to express ourselves. Haha, this activity card you gave me is green, it’s a green card! You know my fiance is applying for a green card? We’re kind of nervous about it with all the anti-immigration and anti-Mexican political rhetoric. It’s a big deal to us.
  • The way my personal life influences my professional life. Just as stress at home affects performance at work, a happy personal life shines through in my work. When I eat properly, get enough sleep, exercise, and enjoy fulfilling relationships with friends and family, I am able to give my best to my students and teach joyfully, respond to problems gracefully, and react to challenges thoughtfully.


I met this man at a salsa event on a warm summer’s night in 2014, because in 2006 I went to a salsa event hosted by the Berry College Spanish Department and Profe Tate showed me some moves, because in 2008 I studied abroad in Sevilla and met a lifelong friend who invited me to go salsa dancing with her on that fateful June night many years later, because I went to Costa Rica in 2009 and my Tica sister tutored me on salsa, bachata and cumbia in her bedroom on hot afternoons after school, because I had spent my whole life obsessed with learning Spanish so that when a cute guy asked me to dance on a warm June night in 2014, I said Do you speak Spanish? and from there, both of our lives were forever changed. 


Posted in Personal Reflections, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What I learned at FLAG

I  had the privilege of attending and presenting at my state’s world language teacher conference this past weekend. I had a great time re-connecting with old amigos and learning from some home-grown teaching stars, and left feeling refreshed and energized. Here are some of the ideas and resources I collected over the weekend:

  1. Session A: Juegos & Actividades/Luis Mora
    1. Lots of resources in this facebook group (try the files tab)
    2. One new thing to try: put the class in teams for a long-running competition. Students win points for their teams for positive behaviors, winning games, using the TL, etc. Give the winning team a prize at the end of the unit & then switch up teams for the next couple of weeks.
  2. Session B: Monkey Mind/Katy McManus
    1. We went through her beginning of class routine of stretching, deep breathing, and positive affirmations. I thoroughly enjoyed her demonstration, but I’m not ready to adapt it as a daily classroom routine.
    2. One new thing to try: when I’m stressed, take a break to stretch and breath. It really does make me feel better!
  3. Session C: PBL Units for the World Language Classroom/Rocio Morrison & Chenee Chisholm
    1. The presenters talked about the whys of PBL and shared two example units, one about Don Quijote and one about educating the school community about Hispanic Heritage Month
    2. One new thing to try: Both these units were designed for level 3+ classes, and I only teach levels 1 and 2. However, I loved Chenee’s Hispanic Heritage month video. I want to use the news clip she took here inspiration from at least as a discussion starter, if not for a whole PBL unit.
  4. Session D: Increasing Opportunities to Engage Learners in Meaningful Study of Language/Carrie Woodcock
    1. Carrie is an administrator in Hall county which has a number of special focus schools, including a world language academy. She talked about ways of improving language programs at a school and district level.
    2. One new thing to try: Carrie encouraged us to thinks about what strenghts our communities have and how we can take advantage of those strengths. She also encouraged us to use parents and the school community as resources. Guest speakers can be very powerful, and parents who speak another language, have a different cultural background, or who have travelled make great speakers!
  5. Session E: Step-by-Step Comprehensible Input Starter Kit/Meredith White & Keith Toda/My vote for Best of FLAG!/Click here for their slides
    1. Oh my gosh, this session was chock full of good ideas! Keith did a CI demo in Latin playing “White Elephant.” He projected the target vocabulary on the board and had a bag full of stuffed animals. He called volunteers up to draw an animal out of the bag (no peeking) or to steal from someone else, with circling and personalization along the way. It was so fun and a great way to target wants and has. I went to this session because I had heard Meredith speak again and I knew she  would have some great ideas, and I was not disappointed! Meredith shared about how she uses “safe social media” with her students with a class SnapChat and Instagram. She talked about her classroom management system (incentive tickets which can be earned for TL use and good behavior and cashed in for different rewards) as well as her themed warm ups. She also shared links (you can find them at the end of their slide show) to many of her own classroom resources and other presentations she has done.
    2. One thing to try: I want to use Keith’s white elephant the first week of Spanish 2 next year, and I will ask my administrator about starting a class Instagram account.
  6. Session F: That was me! I had a blast presenting about Low prep strategies for increasing student engagement and TL use!
    1. My slides are linked on the previous post.
    2. One thing to try: In discussing running dictation, I shared that as a follow up activity I post pictures on the board for students to match to the sentences they write down. One of my attendees suggested having students draw the pictures to demonstrate comprehension and save me the prep time of preparing pictures in advance! Genius!
  7. Session G: Detoxing from the Textbook/Keith Toda/click here for their slides
    1. Keith talked about taking a textbook curriculum and comprehensifying-it. He showed an example of a pretty standard and stilted textbook dialogue, and showed how he teaches those structures with compelling & caring comprehensible input. Before showing the dialogue (the “end goal”) he teaches a pre-view story with lots of different reps. By the time they get to the dialogue, it feels easy and is 100% comprehensible
    2. One thing to try: Read things in silly voices to keep the repetitions interesting! Keith had volunteers read the dialogue like a pirate, like a telenovela, and like you’re underwater. It was hilarious and engaging.
  8. Session H: CI Assessments/Miriam Patrick
    1. Miriam teaches Latin with comprehensible input and shared how she creates assessments for her students  that are compelling, caring, and comprehensible.
    2. One thing to try: ask inference questions about a text and have students justify their answers with textual evidence.
Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Come see me at FLAG!



I am excited to announce that I will be presenting at FLAG this Saturday at 10:30 AM! My goal for the presentation is to share some ideas for activities that are highly engaging, can be done in the TL, and are also low prep.


If you are going to be at FLAG this weekend, I would love to meet you!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New Year’s Resolution: Type my Lesson Plans

When I was 22, I wrote a ten year plan that looked something like,

Year 1: Write awesome lesson plans
Year 2: Edit/improve awesome lesson plans from year 1
Year 3: Sell all the awesome lesson plans on TPT

Seven years later, I still haven’t written that binder of awesome lesson plans. It’s looked more like:

Year 1: Tread water as I teach seven classes with no planning period or curriculum

Year 2: Throw out everything from year 1 because it’s terrible and start over

Year 3: OMG PINTEREST! The CREATIVE LANGUAGE CLASS! MUSICUENTOS! Throw away eighty percent of my lesson plans and start over again. Also, teach that AP/Spanish 3 hybrid class.

Year 4: All the changes in my personal life. Getting better at teaching and actually re-using some of my materials.

Year 5: NEW JOB! ONE PREP! TWO PLANNING PERIODS! JOY OF JOYS! I teach Spanish 1 lessons that I am quite proud of.

Year 6: Block schedule. Back to teaching Spanish 2. Semester 1 is rough with Sp 2, semester 2 is better.

Year 7, Semester 1: Teaching all Spanish 1. Life is beautiful.
Year 7, Semester 2: Teaching two preps again and wondering why with eight rounds of Spanish 1 and six rounds of Spanish 2 have I never sat down and made that binder of lesson plans??

I have always written down lesson plans on something – I had a form at my old school I would fill out, but I was inconsistent and sloppy (I have never been required to submit detailed lesson plans, which I think would have been a helpful chore my freshman year of teaching). I have been writing lesson plans in a day planner the last two years, which has been slightly more consistent, but still quite sloppy. Also, having not taught Spanish 2 since last spring, I have to have both my planners on my desk in order to plan.


I cannot handle this much cuteness on my desk. No really, they take up too much room.

Which brings me to the New Semester’s Resolution: Type my lesson plans already! And since they are neatly typed now (or will be as I teach each unit), I thought I would share them with you all. Sorry, they are on One Drive and not Google Docs as I am also sharing with my admin. Never too late to build good habits!

Spanish 1

Spanish 2

Above are what I have so far. I am typing them primarily for myself so I will have a record next time I teach them and to make planning less stressful. As such, they have abbreviations, typos, and comments as to how far we got each day, as well as special circumstances. My slideshows are linked at the top of each unit plan. Especially in Spanish 1, my slideshows are a bit sloppy, with slides from previous years intermixed. There is no pattern to how the slides for vocabulary, warm ups, and class activities are ordered- it is what works for me. I am sharing these in case they might be of use to another teacher, in the state that they are in, and also as another means to hold myself accountable for this goal.

What processes help you streamline your lesson planning? What was your ten year plan at twenty two? 😅

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Interactive Student Notebooks Set Up


The first time I tried doing interactive student notebooks, I wasn’t very successful. We used them a lot at the beginning of the semester, and then kind of petered out. The second time around, I went down the hall to ask some notebook advice from some math colleagues, and got a couple of simple suggestions that really helped me with consistency the second time around. I use notebooks for warm ups, notes, vocabulary, and handouts. I do fancy foldables sometimes, but my primary goal is organized note-keeping. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips for keeping you and your students organized with ISNs.

  1. The first time you do it, you might want  to only do it with one class.
  2. Post the table of contents on the wall.
  3. Have a consistent schedule for checking notebooks. I check notebooks each time students take a test. That way, I can grade while students test, and if I need to keep some notebooks to finish up  on m planning period, it’s a night where they won’t need them at home to study.
  4. Set up notebooks together a few days into the semester. I used this slideshow, copied from my friend in the math department:

To make your own editable copy, click here. Click file, make a copy, and then you can edit and download to your heart’s delight! If, like me, you are on a block schedule and are starting new classes, the dates for the warm up pages might be helpful to you. I have students reserve a warm up page for each week of class at the beginning of the semester, and date those on our notebook set up day. After that, we have a consistent beginning of class routine that allows me to catch my breath and get my mind focused while students complete their warm up on the designated page without asking me a million questions.


Online account list on the left, pocket for in-progress papers on  the right.

Online account list on the left, pocket for in-progress papers on the right.

This semester, I added a user name list at the back of the notebook. My students made accounts for Quizlet, Padlet, and Conjuguemos last semester, and I plan to also use Duolingo and Señor Wooly this semester, plus whatever other gems I come across that require student log in. I get so tired of having to look up student log ins, so I thought it would be helpful if they at least write down each website they register for along with their username and a password hint.

What are your favorite ISN tips?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TBR: Professional Reading


Down here in Georgia we got an inch of snow Friday night, so of course it’s Tuesday and I have a report-by-ten-o’clock-work-day. This quiet time in my classroom feels like a gift, so I’ve used some of it to do some reading and reflection.

Whale Done

I have to admit my expectations were low when the admins gave us a book with a cheesy title on our first day from Christmas break and along with a deadline for reading the first two chapters. However, upon completing those chapters this morning, I was pleasantly surprised by the message. The authors explain how the whales at SeaWorld are trained with positive feedback strategies, and how those methods can be applied to managing people (I have to chuckle each time I read “animal” and think “student”). Some takeaways from today’s reading:

  • It is more effective to reinforce positive behavior than to punish negative behavior
  • Management is most effective when there is trust and a positive relationship in place
  • “The more attention you pay to a behavior, the more it will be repeated.” Therefore, reward students with attention for positive behaviors!
  • Praise progress, not perfection: give praise when something is done right or almost right
  • Whales need motivators other than food. Workers need motivators other than money. Students need motivators other than grades. (Intrinsic/extrinsic issue)
  • Too often, workers and students only receive feedback for doing something wrong. It is (even more) important to also give positive feedback for doing a good job!


The Language Teacher Toolkit


Christmas morning: yes, I asked for a professional learning book for Christmas. #nerdforlife

Confession: I follow The Language Gym through my feedly account, but I rarely make it through a whole blog post as the attention and focus required for processing each post is usually more than I can give in  those minutes I am scrolling through my phone looking for a distraction! This book is similarly dense, but I am committed  to getting through it. I read for thirty minutes today and found myself nodding and underlining on each page. Here are a few takeaways:

  • My goal in reading this book is to expand my repertoire of best practices – that is, add a few more tools to my teaching tool kit
  • Different methods have different advantages. I agree a lot with the Natural approach described in chapter 1, but my method is a hybrid with communicative language teaching and grammar-translation. The authors acknowledge that your teaching style is going to be heavily influenced by how your students are assessed, and I appreciate that they do so without judgement.
  • “Beware the teacher who claims that research supports their preferred method.” This made me chuckle, as I am guilty of it and know many teachers who are also guilty! The authors point out the difficulties in comparative research on different teaching methods and the many factors that play into a student’s ultimate learning. It is a good reminder to be humble and remain open to learning from others.
  • In chapter 2, the authors start out a discussion on oral work with questioning techniques (circling). “In the process of a ten minute exchange of this sort, students are getting lots of easy, repeated comprehensible input and a chance to practice their pronunciation and embed vocabulary. If students hear the word bag twenty times they are more likely to remember it without having to resort to a more tedious conscious rote learning method.
  • Things to try: chanting & singing things that need memorizing, oral gap filling (teacher reads aloud a familiar text with pauses for students  to fill in the next word. Would work well with a story or song), cumulative games (I go to the market and I buy…), running dictation (post texts around the room, partner A has to go to the text, memorize it, then repeat it back to partner B. No cell phones!)


What are you reading these days? What I should I read next?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Teaching the Novel Tumba

I am wrapping up a three-week unit on the novel Tumba by Mira Canion and wanted to share some of the activities we’ve done. If you are interested, here are my unit plans.

Pre-Readng Activities:

  • Before beginning the book: We discussed products, practices, and perspectives and watched some videos about Día de los Muertos. We filled out a chart to compare the two holidays. Post reading, we will re-visit the chart and see what else students can add.
  • We also used this embedded reading on Tumba. Here is my pre-reading/chapter 1 packet.
  • Crayon wars with chapter word clouds from the teacher’s manual: call out a word in English, students mark it in the word cloud with a colored pencil. Pair up two students with different color pencils and make it a race. After wards, students can self-select words they don’t know to add to their vocab list.
  • Chapter art from the teacher’s manual: To maximize the mileage I get out of copies, I’ve used each chapter art for both listening and writing (I also shrunk the art on the copier so I could fit two or three on a page). First, I will do a listening activity where I read a sentence and students decide which picture it corresponds to, writing the number of the sentence next to the picture. Afterwards, I have them paste the pictures in their ISN and write a sentence or two to describe each picture. You could also use the pictures for story re-tells.
  • Quizlet: Is my favorite! I found a whole folder of Tumba-related sets made by Elena Lopez, and also made Spanish-English sets for the vocabulary I had identified for my students. Question/answer or fill-in-the-blank cards make great sets for rounds of Quizlet live. I like to print these out first for students to match up manually in order to scaffold them up to the speed of Quizlet live.
  • White boards: Put a statement on the board and have student respond on the whiteboards. This works great with True/False statements or Which character ____? questions. It also works well as a post-reading review.
  • Probable/Improbable: After chapter 8, I asked students to make predictions about chapter 9. I then picked several statements to write on big paper and post around the room. Students walked around and gave their opinion on a post-it note as to whether each statement was Probable, Improbable, Posible, Imposible (on second thought, just probable/improbable would  have been enough options). IMG_20161101_075226.jpg


I really enjoyed reading out loud to students, with student readers doing the dialogue, but towards the end of the book students felt confident enough to read independently or in small groups. Sometimes I would have them read in groups and then read together as a class with actors (low-key reader’s theater), sometimes I would read to them and they would re-read as they completed post-reading activities, and sometimes we skipped the whole-class reading altogether. Variety is important!


I used a LOT of activities from the teacher’s manual, as well as from Allison’s Wienhold’s blog posts on Tumba (I really liked her idea of having students write quiz questions and quiz each other – we did it after chapter 9 and it was a good change of routine from answering post-reading questions).  I often used the chapter questions from the teacher’s manual, or we played a game like Kahoot (the ones by Elena Lopez are always high quality), Quizlet Live, or Quizizz, or we simply discussed.

Ok, I’m a bit old school here. I made a chapter packet for almost every packet with target vocabulary, comprehension questions, and other related pre-and post reading activities and graded several of these as classwork completion grades. I gave two quizzes – one after chapter 4 and one after chapter 10. Quizzes were all comprehension based, with matching and true/false questions. I will give them a unit test including a writing section (describe a character and/or describe a picture). I am also planning to put students into groups and have them re-enact different parts of the book as a review before the test.

I’ve really enjoyed teaching Tumba, and I think my students have enjoyed it too (planning to give them a survey about this and will share results). I feel like I’ve taught Día de los muertos more completely than any other year, and students have a deeper understanding of it. We also touched on  lots of other cultural topics, such as school schedules, family relationships, and the Mexican Revolution. I also think students acquired a lot of vocabulary, and as we wrote and talked about the characters and events, I was able to do a lot of pop-up grammar about 3rd person singular/plural verb forms. I look forward to teaching it again with future classes and further refining and improving my lessons. If you have funds available for materials, I would highly recommend purchasing a class set of Tumba and the teacher’s guide to go with it.


Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments