Class Activities, Music in Spanish Class

#SCOLT18: #AuthRes for the Novice Language Learner

I am super excited to be headed to #SCOLT18 tomorrow! Here are the slides for my session, #AuthRes for the Novice Language Learner. I’m sharing tons of links to my favorite sources for finding beginner-appropriate authentic resources, as well as activities to go along with them. I’m also sharing three “ready to go” authres activities that I’ve used with my own students on leisure activities, school, and clothing. If you’ll be at SCOLT, I will be presenting Saturday at 9:00 – hope to see you there!

Classroom Management & Organization, Sp 1 Unit 1: Greetings/goodbyes/ numbers/calendar, Teaching Reflections

First Week of School: I love everything!

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Reviewing our basic phrases with Bob and Squishy. I LOVE Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell’s “First Unit of Spanish 1” unit plans! I have to follow our department’s curriculum but her lesson plans let me start off the year with a comprehensible input BANG while still satisfying the department requirements.
  • Also, I love those speech bubbles. Spent waaaaay too much time getting them, the textboxes, and the animation perfect! Here’s the presentation, the template is on page 7.
  • I love stations! I repeated these station lesson plans from last year…so much easier this time around! Also easier with my new classroom and having space to organize materials!
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Basic “to-do” list on board, asterisks for what requires something to be written down, and a note on where to find instructions for each task.
  • I love having clothespins hot glued all over my walls:
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Grab a bag & take it back to your desks.
  • I love seeing my kiddos playing with the blocks AND following the instructions!
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I set a time limit on the blocks station… it worked well this year. Had issues last year with kids complaining about not getting the blocks because one group hogged them.
  • I love that I saved my example paragraph from last year, and COULD FIND IT when I needed it! Also, I love that I had all the instructions typed up and could actually find them on my computer! Hooray organization!
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  • I love the enthusiasm of brand new Spanish 1 students! And I LOVE hearing them practice with each other!
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I love how organized I am the first week of school…even had a box with extra handouts for the week on the shelf below.
  • I love my Spanish books. And I LOVE seeing my students look through them!

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Switched gears after 1st period and bagged up books in gallon zip locks for Spanish 2 to use in a cognate lesson.
  • I don’t love reviewing grammar in Spanish 2…but I loved doing conjugation practice in a walk-about with these prompts posted on the walls!
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Rules: 1. Write a verb in the correct form that makes sense in the sentence. 2. Don’t repeat any verb another student has already written. 3. Be creative! Be wordy! Be FUNNY!
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And I love that my department head bought me all this beautiful construction paper!
  • And last of all…I love the honeymoon phase. Happy back-to-school, y’all.
Music in Spanish Class

Música en Español March Madness

I am jumping on board with Bethanie Drew and Allison Wienhold for Manía Musical de Marzo – March Music Madness! Gracias Bethanie for the fantastic idea and bracket!

Here’s my bracket bulletin board:

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Manía Musical 🙂
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The contenders. Kept most of Bethanie’s original picks, but added two of my students’ all time favorites – Vivir mi Vida and Lo mejor de mi vida eres tú

I want to do a different activity each round – maybe a cloze,  a lyrics ordering activity, a reading about the artists, learning the coro, matching the meaning, describing the song, giving your opinion on why you like it, etc. We started today with La lista and Tengo tu love. Both songs are new to my students, and they loved them! Alas, there can only be one winner, and Tengo tu love took the victory:

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Voting today was so much fun – I’m excited to see how it goes over the next few weeks!

Bulletin board files, if you want to copy:

Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela, Teaching Reflections

Assessment: What makes a good quiz?

Assessment is a constantly evolving process for me. It is important to me to give assessments that give me meaningful information about what my students can understand and communicate in Spanish.  My framework for a valid assessment has changed each year, and I’m still researching, experimenting, looking at other teachers’ examples, and generally trying to figure things out.

So here’s my question: What kind of assessment makes a valid quiz grade?

Admin mandates that tests are weighted 60% and quizzes are weighted 20% (the other 20% is homework and daily work), and also that each department give common assessments. I know my students are pretty solid on the vocabulary, and we’re working up to some more in-depth writing and speaking assignments, but I’m not sure what to do for a quiz grade. I want it to be comprehension-based, but more than translating individual words. I’ve looked at the Realidades resources….I don’t love them. The chapter test is ok, but I don’t care for the quiz materials at all – too much focus on conjugating, questions are confusing, and it doesn’t clearly measure what students understand. I’m thinking perhaps a reading passage with some comprehension questions in English (although I do find it difficult to write good comprehension questions), or maybe filling out a graphic organizer – like a paragraph about a school schedule, and they fill out a chart?


So writing is reflecting, and after I wrote the above post, I went over to and read through the Assessment tag, and found this description of how Sara-Elizabeth did vocab quizzes in Spanish 1 and 2:

1) Ask random questions to elicit vocab, and the answer just has to make sense or be true. (¿De qué color son los ‘arches’ de McDonalds?)

So I could do something like, ¿Qué clase tienes primera? ¿Qué necesitas para la clase de matemáticas? ¿Quién enseña tu clase de literatura? ¿Cuál es tu clase favorita? ¿Por qué? Short and sweet, easy to grade (a must to sell it to my department!), and leaves vocabulary open-ended for students. I hesitate, however, because a wrong answer could mean either that they didn’t remember how to say the answer in Spanish, or that they didn’t understand the question.  So maybe give the option, (or require?) that they also write what the question means in English?

What do quizzes look like in your classes?

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?

Four Corners: Take vocabulary practice out of the classroom!

Last March, I went to an excellent presentation at FLAG by Lee Burson and Erin Smith called “Halls, Walls, and Using it All.” The presentation was all about creative ways to utilize your available space, getting students up and moving around. So here’s an activity I learned from them called four corners: basically, you just need four categories, and four separate physical areas – corners, walls, whatever. Label the areas, call out a word or phrase, and students decide which category it fits in, and move to that area. So, for example, my categories today were Soy, No Soy, Tengo, and No Tengo (I am, I’m not, I have, I don’t have).

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I call out a word or phrase in Spanish (blonde hair, artistic, lazy, brown eyes) and then direct my students to physically move to the appropriate areaAfter they sort themselves out, I have each group repeat the phrase – I have blonde hair/I don’t have blonde hair, I’m artistic/I’m not artistic. 


  • Review/reinforce descriptions vocabulary
  • Distinguish between I have phrases and I am phrases – let’s not say tengo alto or soy ojos azules
  • Practice masculine and feminine adjectives – when I had a gender-specific adjective, like artístico or perezoso,  I always had the guys and girls repeat separately – Chicos, repitan, “Soy artístico!” ok, chicas, repitan, “Soy artística!” 
  • Provide lots of comprehensible input for where to put the no – I want no soy and no tengo to just sound right, so I don’t get Tengo no lentes or Soy no alto on speaking or writing assessments.

Adapt it:

  • Do it in the hall with the signs taped up to the wall, or take it outside on a pretty day and let student volunteers hold the signs.
  • The options for categories are endless:
    • I like it, I like it a lot, I don’t like it, I hate it – use it for foods, activities, or school subjects
    • Sometimes, a lot, once in awhile, never – use it for activities, places around town, chores, daily routine verbs
    • In the morning, in the afternoon, at night – Again, activities or daily routine verbs
    • Breakfast, lunch, dinner – for categorizing foods/drinks
    • Alone, with my family, with my friends – maybe for working verb forms, ask Who do you ____ with? And the sentences could be, I study alone. My friends and I go to school together. My family and I watch TV together.  You could indicate other groups or individuals to get in the he/she and they forms.
  • Make it more challenging: after a few rounds, prompt each group of students to produce the sentence on their own, rather than repeating
  • Make it simpler: If you have TPR-able vocab, you can do this at the beginning of the unit and support comprehension of the phrases you call out by doing the gesture. You could also use picture cards to support comprehension (rather than clarifying in English) if the vocabulary doesn’t lend well to gesturing.
Teaching Reflections

Stamp Sheets Part 1: Pros & Cons

Do you use stamp sheets? I began using a form of stamp sheets three years ago, and this is my second year using stamp sheets consistently.  While there are many reasons I LOVE my stamp sheets, they also drive me a little crazy.  In this post, I want to share a little bit about what I love and don’t love about using stamp sheets.

Unit 1 Stamp Sheet - adapted from JCPS world language documents
Unit 1 Stamp Sheet – adapted from JCPS world language documents


I love how stamp sheets clearly communicate learning goals and organize my units. Just as Kara said in the post linked above, stamp sheets make me plan out my goals for each unit ahead of time. The I can statements guide my lesson plans, and communicate very clearly to students and parents my learning expectations. If a student is out and I don’t have a worksheet they can just do at home (which is often), I can tell them which goal we practiced and point them to vocabulary resources online to work on that goal independently. I also like to show stamp sheets to parents to show them what their child is learning how to do in Spanish class, and maybe even challenge a parent to complete a few of our goals – often, they’re impressed at how much they remember from their high school or college Spanish courses!

I love how stamp sheets give me an opportunity to listen to each student speak, and give individual feedback. Stamp sheets are a great “check in” for student learning. Quiet students often hide in the crowd of a big class, and having these mini-assessments built in gives me a reason to hear from all students, even the quiet ones. I don’t always notice who is struggling, until I hear them attempt their stamp sheet goals, and I’ve been blown away on several occasions by quiet students who never volunteer in class, but speak beautifully when it’s time for them to do stamps.

Stamps are a relatively low-pressure speaking assignment. I do take stamps for a grade, so there is some pressure to “get them done,” but I also consider them part of the learning process, and a teachable moment. So I give feedback, I coach, I prompt, we practice and I let them try and re-do.

That being said…I’m at the end of a unit and finishing stamp sheets is driving me crazy.  Here are a few things I don’t love about stamp sheets:

Memorize and forget. This makes me nuts! Most of my students *know* their stamps when they do them for me, but there are always a few who have clearly memorized a statement and will forget it a minute later. How do I teach for long-term retention? I love how mini-goals are explicit and manageable, but by giving a checklist of mini-goals, am I promoting “memorize and forget”?

Finishing stamp sheets takes forever. I do my best to limit the number of goals on my stamp sheets, and yet, they still take so much time to do! In the post linked above, Kara says,

A. If you observe a student doing the goal during class, stamp it.
B. Give everyone a written or spoken quiz at the end of class or on a specific day. You can cover one stamp or several.
C. Students self-assess themselves. Keep one specific stamp design out that they can use.
D. Pick a few students every day to show what they can do.

She makes it sound so easy, but I haven’t figured out how to balance it! Here’s my unit two stamp sheet:

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16 goals, five classes of 32 students each, equals 2560 mini goals to listen to. If each goal takes ten seconds (some students are fast, some are slow, some need multiple tries), that’s 426 minutes of class, or two whole days of class doing nothing but stamps. For one unit. I try to do stations, and have stamps as a station, where I can listen to individuals and have the rest of the class be productively occupied, or give written work, where again, I can listen to individuals while the rest of the class is occupied, but I’m finding it really difficult to find ways to balance individual assessment and feedback (which is so important!) with simultaneously instructing and managing 31 other students.

What to do? I’d like to write more on stamp sheets later this week – I have a few thoughts on ways to modify how I use them – but I would also love to hear from other stamp-sheet using teachers. What stamp sheet strategies work for you?

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?, Teaching Reflections

Today my lesson was dreadful + Reflecting on my strengths? #reflectiveteacher Day 15

So I thought my lesson today was going to be awesome, until I taught it and it wasn’t.  Perhaps the anticipation made the subsequent failing all the worse? Pride goeth before a fall, and whatnot…

Anywhere, my goal was “I can describe my personality,” and for my fast processors, “I can describe someone else’s personality.” So I was presenting personality adjectives, and not being something readily illustratable or TPR-able (on first thought), I went with an idea I saw on the Creative Language Class awhile back – sorting the vocab words into meaningful categories. So I assembled a vocab list on quizlet, printed flashcards, and planned the different ways we would sort our words.

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Used that black square at the bottom to hide the future categories – just wanted them to focus on one task at a time.

I even had a Wordle projected on the board as they came into the room:

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whoops that accent mark…forgive me, please.

Problem #1: Too complicated to explain in the target language.

But I had to ask them in English what they understood in the word cloud…how do you check comprehension without L1?  Please, wise language teachers, educate me.  But back to Spanish for the sorting activity, yes?  Because clasifica is a cognate, and they know comprendo/no comprendo – but I gave instructions in Spanish, and they didn’t get what I wanted them to do. So I told them in English. And they did it…but then I wanted them to sort again, but they didn’t quite get it, so I switched to English, again. And again. And by 7th period, it was 90% English, with the only input coming from the cards. *facepalm*

Problem #2: Poor timing, poor transitions

This one I actually was able to rectify throughout the day (I teach the same lesson 5 times) – I realized that I was moving on too quickly, while some students were still engaged in the current task. I also realized that I needed to be very clear with instructions about the activity up front. Solution: give detailed instructions explaining the WHOLE activity as we begin it, more wait time, observe where my students are in the process (don’t rush it because it “feels” like it’s been long enough), and do a transition between each round of classification. 

Transition/summarization activities:

After Opposites – ran through flashcards on quizlet with both English and Spanish showing, and asked students for the opuesto (en español, por favor).

After Soy/No soy (I am, I’m not) – turn to your partner and say a sentence starting with Soy and a sentence starting with No soy 

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My very fancy high-prep visual aid for this carefully planned speaking activity.

After un buen/mal profesor and un novio excelente/terrible – discuss, write adjectives on board, then point to each word I’ve written and have students translate. I also gave them sentence starters for a quick speaking break with their partner.

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Problem #3: Asking for production of new words before they have audio input.

So when I was asking for them to say the opposites of each adjective, en español? Terrible pronunciation…and entirely my fault, because while they were getting input from the flashcards, it was only reading input, and they had maybe heard each word once or twice. Once I realized this, I ran through the cards on Quizlet and had them repeat, but honestly, I should have known better and planned to introduce with audio input. 

Problem #4: Should have picked the target vocab better.

In the set of flashcards, I included Soy and Es, plus some adjectives for physical descriptions (tall, short, pretty, etc). I wish I hadn’t done that, and rather had focused purely on personality adjectives. It was confusing for some of the categorizations, like opuestos, because many of the words didn’t have an opposite. Furthermore, they know appearance adjectives pretty well, and it probably would have been better to give them fewer flashcards to work with (I gave them 30….but in my defense, half or 2/3 were already familiar or cognates). Perhaps if I had been more careful in choosing the words, I would have had more success in giving instructions in the target language.


TeachThought‘s Reflection topic for day 15: Name three strengths you have as an educator.

Honestly, I wasn’t feeling very strength-y this afternoon. Today ended up being very whack-a-mole-y (with discipline and classroom management – that’s what I get for a poorly planned lesson), and I was exhausted and frustrated. But then I read reflections from some other world language teachers:

And thought, oh, me too – yes, I’m good at that too – oh, yes, that sounds like me – over and over (except the part about being super organized, haha. I’m with Señora Spanglish on that one, over there in “still developing” organizational skills! ). And I decided that a bad teaching day does not make me a bad teacher, and the humility to recognize and learn from a failed lesson is a strength in itself. So my three strengths:

1. Reflection – I learn from my mistakes (see above).

2. Resourcefulness – I cannot do everything on my own, I cannot plan engaging, CI, proficiency-based lessons all on my own, and I’m not a Spanish-English dictionary and cannot answer every ¿Cómo se dice…? inquiry instantly, on the spot. However, I’m aware of my limitations, and I know how to find help – on the internet, with my colleagues next door, and in my online blogging, pinning, and tweeting PLN.

3. Growth mindset – for myself and my students. I’m not where I want to be as an educator, but I’m working in the right direction. Mastery is an asymptote, and learning to teach is a life-long pursuit.


Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?

Stations: Descriptions Unit

Today was station day in Spanish 1! Today we were practicing giving descriptions, as well as reviewing numbers and time.

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List of stations on the board: I let my kids free-range (no time limits or specific order to do the stations in), so writing the list on the board helps let them know what activities are available. Later in the day, I rewrote the list and starred the “required” stations, and specified where they were in the room.

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Writing station – instructions and an example on the board. I make multiple copies of the instructions so students can take it back to their desks. One of the beautiful things about stations is that it lets students work at their own pace – they can take as much time as they need to do the writing, without feeling like they need to keep up with their classmates.


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This is the second time we’ve done stations and my kids are trained! Taking a picture of the instructions is always acceptable, and saves on paper and clutter.


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This is just like last time – get a bag of questions, and practice out loud with your partner. I used the same bags of questions, and added ¿De qué color es tu pelo? ¿De qué color son tus ojos? for the current unit focus.  “Wait, what do we write? How will you know we did it?” Nothing. I’ll know you did it because you learned it.
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Reading/drawing station: Forgot to take a picture of the instructions, but basically, it’s “Draw What I Say” based on a text instead of listening. I typed up some short descriptions, and had them choose four of them to draw and label. Later in the day (I always learn as I go!), I also offered the option to summarize in English instead of drawing – the point is to demonstrate comprehension, and I’m happy to let them do that in the way that they are most comfortable with.
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Jenga: practice with numbers. Plus, it’s fun! Had to reduce the time limit to two games, then to one, because they’re just too good at it 🙂


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Yep, that’s a hump day shirt.

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More practice with time. Yep, we did that matching activity two weeks ago. #ShamelessRecycler

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Guess Who: I printed these Guess Who Boards with Spanish names in color last year (google “Quién es Quién to find them – bet there are other languages, too!) and laminated them. I provided students with a list of questions (they understand pretty well, but producing these questions is beyond their current ability level), and let them play the game, marking the boards with a dry erase marker. They don’t erase perfectly (these boards might have another year in them), but it’s pretty good for a cheap version of the game.


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We spent about 40 minutes on stations today, and I plan to give them another 15 or 20 minutes tomorrow. I found last time that two full days was too much time, and the behavior started to deteriorate. *Most* of my students really enjoyed the day, but there’s always that one who doesn’t, and I find it’s the negative comments that stick with me more than the positive. I had a student (at the ripe old age of 16) tell me that my class was too “freshman-y” today, and honestly, it really stung. It did inspire some reflection, though, and that comment sparked a few changes in how I managed the stations in the afternoon – mainly, clarifying that the reading, writing, time, and conversation stations MUST be done, but playing games was optional (as long as you are doing something related to Spanish), and giving the option to translate instead of draw at the reading station. I refuse to give up the [instructionally useful] silliness and games [that provide opportunities to practice language in context], but I can also find ways to incorporate options that appeal to a variety of students. Autonomy and choice are HUGE motivators, and it’s my goal to incorporate activities that allow students to learn and show me their learning in ways that are comfortable and meaningful to them. It also occurred to me that the freedom to manage your own time and participate in the learning activities that you prefer with minimal supervision from the teacher (I’m there, but on station day there’s no way I can be on top of every student simultaneously) takes a certain amount of maturity, and the freshmen and sophomores totally blew it out of the water today. 🙂

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?

Comprehensible Input: Draw What I Say!

Drawing is a great way for students to demonstrate comprehension, without requiring them to produce language they aren’t ready for. “Draw what I say” (fancy title, I know!) is a simple, no-prep activity to get lots of reps of draw-able structures. This week I used it to work on colors and physical characteristics.

My paper - filled out as I talked first period.
My paper – filled out as I talked first period.

Step 1: I ask students to get out a piece of paper, and fold it three times (all in the TL – I demonstrate as I talk). I then have them number 1-6 (again in the TL, walking around and pointing at my own paper), leaving the last two squares blank – we’ll draw in squares 1-6, and write sentences in the empty spots. I also direct them to get markers  or colored pencils (our fabulous German teacher lent me his class set).

Step 2: Tell them what to draw! I was able to hit physical features, colors, clothing (really basic – shirt, pants, shorts, dress, shoes – we’ve already practiced these through stories and TPR), and feelings (feliz/triste/enojado – easy to model or TPR) as well as review some key phrases from unit 1 -we named each character, gave them an age, and said what time it was.

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Step 3: Extend the activity!

Reading: Give a warm up with comprehension questions based on the drawing:


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1st period’s warm up questions.

Listening: I made statements about one of the drawings, and had students point or hold up fingers (1, 2, or 3) to indicate which character it was about. Ie: Tiene pelo castaño. Lleva un vestido. Tiene 15 años. 

Writing: Use the empty boxes to have students write descriptions of the characters.

Speaking: Ask questions in class about the drawing, and have students answer chorally. Have them work with a partner to ask and answer questions about the drawings, or just have them practice making statements about the characters (telling other people’s age, hair and eye color are among our goals for this unit).

Teaching Reflections

The class where your lesson falls flat

Today was my second day back to school at a new job. I’ve been using Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell’s first fourteen days of Spanish 1 lesson plans.  I used them for the first time last year and really enjoyed them, and was also impressed with how much my students learned those first few weeks, and retained throughout the year!


So the class that flopped: it was the hour after lunch. It was my third time through the lesson that day, and my morning classes had gone well.  However, in fifth period, there was just a lack of energy. I was losing them, or felt like it anyway. I stopped my storytelling with 20 minutes left in class, switching gears to numbers, letters, anything. I showed them a list of Spanish names (which my morning classes loved! they were fascinated!), and offered to pronounce names for them – nope, not interested, or too shy to be the first to start. I was floundering, grabbing at anything to fill the time (can’t be the teacher who ends class early the second day of school!) So I went back to the alphabet, and then started spelling words for them to write down, until mercifully the bell rang.

My sixth and seventh periods went better, thankfully. I have some big personalities in those classes that drive the story telling (and keep the class entertained!), but I was also able to make some changes based on my experience in fifth period. Here are two simple changes I made to keep the energy up:

  • I had them copy a short list of vocab at the beginning of class. They were in quiet mode (disengaged mode? #tlap). I wanted to recapture their energy (their engagement?) for story telling, so I had them stand up and we did some simple TPR to review some of the words I had introduced yesterday – toca la boca. toca los ojos. toca el pelo. ok, repita (point), ojos. pelo. nariz. (point at eyes and wait expectantly until they say it….si, ojos! muy bien).  ok. una chica?  un chico? muy bien. Este marcador es rojo o negro? etc.
  • I used my list of “Top 100 Hispanic Names” differently than I had in the morning. Rather than pulling out as a separate activity after story telling, I integrated it with the story. We were drawing a second character in the lesson, so I drew her, did circling questions throughout, but left out her name.  When the character was finished, I passed out the lists of names and asked each group to nominate a name for the character (they took this very seriously!). It gave them a break from listening to me speak Spanish, let them talk to each other, and gave them a reason to read through the names. Also, we voted on the names, which gave me an excuse to count out loud in Spanish (counting votes).
    • Side note – I really enjoyed talking about Hispanic names today! I printed the list primarily because several students wrote on their interest inventory that they wanted to learn about Spanish names, or how to say their name in Spanish. However, once I had it, I found that it was a good bit of culture (the list was from 2013), interesting (compelling?) to students, and also worked well as a jumping-off point to talk about  the sounds of Spanish and pronunciation – the vowels (some names are spelled the same, but just pronounced with a Spanish accent), j, h, ll – even accent marks – SaloMÉ. Do you hear the accent mark? CrisTÓbal.  Do you hear the accent mark?

Thinking about it now, I might have had more success trying the name game or another quick speaking activity in fifth period, rather than continuing teacher-led instruction. It would have switched the focus from me to them – and aren’t your classmates so much more interesting than your teacher?? Ha!

What do you do when your lesson falls flat? How do you manage class energy?  How do you drive up interest in story-telling when you have a shy or sleepy class?