5 Ways to Stay Productive during Post Planning


One more year done!

It is 8:30 on day one of four of post planning, and I am DONE with grades. What do with my time for the next four days? It has always been hard for me to get any actual lesson planning done without an imminent class to inspire me, and it is terribly hard to concentrate on serious tasks after the marathon of finishing those last six weeks after spring break! While it may be tempting to wile away the hours with social media and gossip over long lunches, I have a few ideas for how I can stay productive this week even with diminished capacity to concentrate:

  1. Organize my digital files. I got a new laptop from my school last fall, which meant moving all my files off my old one. Then we got a notice in December that our old desktop computers were being retired, and to back up all our files. After these two transitions, I have copies of my files on Google Drive, One Drive, my laptop, an external hard drive, and a flash drive or two. I need to go through my files and save them all in one place (particularly the files I’ve created on my laptop but not saved on the cloud). I also need to do a culling – it makes it very difficult to find things when my unit folders are cluttered with activities I haven’t used in five years.
  2. Clean out my file cabinet. I have tried, at various points, to make organized binders for each unit I teach. It is so, so hard to maintain these! Goal number two is at least organize the file folders in my filing cabinet and to toss resources I’ve stopped using. If I get really ambitious perhaps I can get one or two more units transitioned over to a binder, rather than the hodgepodge file folder.
  3. Make bulletin board resources at the TRC. My district has a wonderful wonderful resource called the teacher resource center: a downtown building with a die cut machine, construction paper in every color imaginable, unlimited laminating (with volunteers to run the machines!) and both color and black and white printers (with daily limits on copies, but still – free color printing!). I want to spend one afternoon next week at the TRC letting the creative juices flow. I want to print and laminate this music fast-finisher station from TPT to use as a bulletin board next year, and perhaps print some other games and resources best seen in color.
  4. Read professional learning books and blogs.

    IMG_20161225_101920 (1)

    Christmas morning with my brand new copy of “The Language Teacher Toolkit”

    I actually read quite a bit of The Language Teacher Toolkit while proctoring standardized tests in  April, but I still haven’t finished it. I also would like to spend some time going through my backlog of unread blog posts, my saved posts on Twitter and Facebook, and combing through Pinterest to find some ideas for next year, and get those sorted and organized so I remember to use them next year.

    5. Collaborate My district has set aside one day for professional learning, and my department is using our time to meet with the language teachers from the other two schools in our district. We did this last year as well and it was such a positive atmosphere of sharing and collaborating. I’m looking forward to sharing my presentation from FLAG as well as my student notebooks, and to learning some new tricks from my colleagues.

How do you stay productive during post-planning?

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Routines for April


I mentioned in my post-conference reflection on FLAG an idea of implementing a long-running class competition. I am officially doing it! I have long resisted giving extra credit, but gosh it is just so effective for getting kids to act right! Here is my procedure: group kids randomly (draw a number from a cup) or purposefully (Melanie Stilson has some good ideas) into groups. I do 4-5 students per group, which translates to 5-6 groups per class. Students are in these groups for the duration of the unit. Throughout the unit, students get points for speaking answering questions, participating in class, helping, being supportive of their group/class, winning games, and generally acting positively (I track these with tickets and take them up and record them at the end of each class. It is much easier to record for the group than for individuals). The day before our unit test, we do review games such as Quizlet Live, Kahoot, or Quizizz, with winning students earning points for their teams. The team with the most points at the end of the unit gets five bonus points on their test.


First Period’s Scoreboard


I regularly get the urge to rearrange my room – it just makes everything feel different and fresh. So, here is my latest arrangement, with desks arranged into “tables” of 4-5 seats:


My classroom: desks in groups of 5

Here is the awesome part – with inspiration from Melanie, we are rotating tables! So students sit with their groups, but they rotate to a different part of the room each day. I really like that I’ve got my kids grouped with people they don’t normally talk to, and the fact that I’ve got different faces up front each day. I use the same number tents for all of my classes and rearrange them on my planning period, and if problem kids end up next to each other in a class I just swap them on the spot.  I have never been able to keep up with Sara-Elizabeth’s daily random seating assignments (I just have to get to the bathroom between classes!), but setting out six tents once a day is manageable for me.


Index card to mark where group 6 is sitting  today

Inhala, Exhala

I am working on increasing my use of the TL…to be honest, it’s a struggle. One thing that has helped me (and my students) is implementing a routine to establish when I expect TL. I tell them Inhala…Exhala…we take a couple of deep breaths, and then I tell them No hablen inglés – vamos a hablar el español. (Side note: I totally lost it today when we were in the middle of a big inhala and a poor allergy sufferer burst out but I can’t breathe!) I think I saw a version of this on Kara Jacob‘s blog, and it always makes me giggle on the inside thinking of Rogelio de la Vega:

After our breathing routine, I tell a (short) story and ask questions, and give tickets (group points) to students as they answer.

That’s what’s working for me these days! Let’s see if it can get us through these last few weeks until summer. 🙂

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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. 


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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.
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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!

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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? 😅

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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?

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