Spanish 2, Teaching Reflections

Teaching Commands – #SnapThoughts Reflection

In this post: a quick video reflection on two activities I used for teaching commands, plus resources for those activities.

Over at PBL in the TL, Laura shared a post about using snapchat for quick lesson reflections, and then Maris Hawkins encouraged me again on Brillante Viernes to do one, so here it is! Maybe I’ll remember the filter next time.


Quizlet list – list of infinitives for commands activities

Worksheet for affirmative commands – just maybe take out the part about passing around the cards 😉 The second page is a more traditional drill-style worksheet that I did as a quick practice after I introduced negative commands, before the more communicative-focused walk-about activity. Use what you can, ignore what you can’t, and if you make it better send it back my way!


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!

Class Activities, Spanish 2

Weekend Chat Speed Dating

My students are not so good at participating in whole- class discussions, so I try to find different ways talk about our weekends each Monday. I wrote about several of these ideas last fall, and today I want to add one more: Weekend Chat speed dating. Click here for my handout.

For the warm up, I had students fill out the top part of the handout:

Screenshot 2016-03-28 12.34.55

Then, we arranged the desks into rows like this:


Students asked each other the questions and recorded their answers in the boxes below. Every three to four minutes, one row rotated so everyone got a new partner. I liked how many reps of hiciste they got, as well as repetitions of their own favorite weekend activities, and exposure to the verbs their partners chose to use. I also pushed students to add details – Ok, so you slept. How long? At what time? Until when? We talked about the  grammar a little bit (we’ve been working on the preterite awhile), and I asked them to record their partner’s responses in the he/she form. I felt like the activity dragged on a little too long, but it could easily be shortened by cutting down on the questions or the number of partner rotations.

Class Activities, Spanish 2

Logistics for La Persona Especial

One of the best decisions I made this semester was to try La Persona Especial/La estrella del día in Spanish 2. When I first started it I was doing all kinds of duplicate work, but I’ve managed to streamline the process since then. Today I want to share in detail how I execute La Persona Especial, how I assess it, and the steps I take to make it fair for all students.

The interviews

Many students are reluctant to get up in front of the class, but I’ve found a few strategies that have been working well to persuade some students.

  • Ask them. Asking them while we do our warm up or the day before gives students a chance to consent without feeling the pressure of an audience and also gives them a chance to prepare – both mentally, or by looking over their Estrella handout we filled out the first week of class. I also throw in some carrots – C’mon, I know you’re going to do a great job. Please? I really need to do an interview today. I’d love to hear from you. And it’s a ONE HUNDRED in the grade book? Pleeeeeeassee? After their interview, I make sure to congratulate them individually and tell them how well they did.
  • Let them take a buddy. If they like, I let a friend sit next to them and whisper translations in their ear. I’ve also done paired interviews – two students go up together, sit in my chairs (the stool/my rolly desk chair – it makes them feel special :)), and take turns answering questions.

During the interviews, I use this slide show I adapted slightly from Kara Jacobs (one of my new year’s resolutions is to use more resources from Kara. She’s an inspiration!). I change it slightly every few weeks, sometimes to try to elicit new and more interesting details, or just to work in a few questions to reinforce vocab from our current unit. I stand at the front and question and click through the slides, or I ask a student to click through the slides and I stand at the back (this helps with classroom management). I set up a secretary on my desktop computer to take notes in a google doc (I have my secretarias trained now and they do great, I just come back and edit when they finish, which is much less work than typing it all myself for two different classes on my planning period). The google doc is embedded on my class website and updates instantly. So if you’re absent, no excuse — all the info is posted online!

The review

I usually do two or three interviews a week, and do a “People Quiz” every other Friday. Before each new interview I review previous interviews. A couple different options:

  • High prep: I used to make slide shows for each person with a picture. This worked well – I would ask the questions, students respond chorally, and then I show the answer on the slide show, but making these was too much work, so I stopped.
  • Medium prep: Sometimes, I copy the interview information into another google doc and delete details. So I project a list with things like Le gusta la película ____________. I ask questions and students respond chorally.
  • Lazy: I run through the questions slide show linked above and just ask the questions. Students respond chorally.

I think the high prep option gets the best results, but the benefit is marginal enough not to merit the extra work. If only I had a student assistance….alas, I do not, so it’s the lazy low prep option for now.


Quiz review

Once I have all the interviews done that are going to be on the quiz (usually 4), I copy and paste all the information into a new google doc. I use the “Sorted Paragraph” add-on to alphabetize (aka scramble) the sentences and number them. I divide students into groups and project the statements on the board, and students decide in their groups which person (or people) each statement describes. I have them trade papers to grade, and give out stickers to every group who got a 100. Here’s the one I used today. I do this activity in two classes, and both are included in the doc. The sneaky part?  This becomes my question bank. I copy and paste into a word document, delete vague statements until I’m down to 33 (the magical number that fits on one page), format, and print. DONE.

This week I tried another pre-quiz review strategy that was really fun. Yesterday I printed out the bios for each of the four stars. Students were divided into groups and given one bio and piece of white paper. On their paper, I asked them to draw a visual representation of their assigned persona especial. I posted the finished drawings on the wall for students to view/admire, and then scanned them on my planning period (I discovered my copier will let me scan multiple pages through the top feeder slot and will save as a PDF on a flash drive. EASY PEASY). I projected the scanned drawings today and used that as the base for my oral review. So fun!

estrella dibujo
Se llama Dillan. Tiene 17 años. Su cumpleaños es el 8 de octubre. Vive en Euharlee. Tiene dos gatos que se llaman Brody y Tyrone. Le gusta escuchar música rap y le gusta el rapero 21 Savage. Le gusta ir de pesca. Su clase favorita es la historia. Si pudiera ser un animal, sería un delfin. Tiene miedo de la oscuridad. Si tuviera un superpoder, tendría el poder de superfuerza.
Spanish 2

Quick Tip: Throwback Thursday

I have been encouraging/tracking participation this semester with tickets – answer a question in Spanish, you get a ticket. At the end of each class I take up and tally tickets, and assign a grade for participation every week or two. One of my Spanish 2 students complained yesterday that I wasn’t offering enough opportunities to earn tickets. So, here is the warm up I gave today:

Screenshot 2016-02-11 13.55.15

I took several answer for the first few questions, and then for 5, 6, 7, and 10, I called on students as long as they could come up with unique responses. I like to use warm ups as discussion starters, but I’m finding it difficult to find ways to personalize and discuss the vocab for the current unit in Spanish 2 (Realidades 2b – shopping). This warm up was a nice break from the boring textbook vocabulary, and worked great as a review, as well as offering lots of opportunities for students to answer questions and earn their tickets.

Teaching Reflections

Try something new: La persona especial

buttonEvery time I try a new CI technique, I get very nervous. Will it bomb? Will I forget what to say? Will the kids participate? What if they refuse? What if it falls flat? So with a bit of fear, trembling, and a pair of sweaty palms, today I tried my first Persona Especial interview in Spanish 2 (we’re on a block schedule so this was the third day of class). The verdict? Success!!!!! I used this slideshow and student form shared by Kara Jacobs. Students filled out the form on the first day of class, and my estrella used his during the interview. I projected the slideshow so I wouldn’t forget the questions, and the pictures helped with comprehension. I picked a kid I was 90% sure would be successful to go first, and one I thought the class would perceive positively. I also got his permission before I called him up, and slipped him a reward coupon at the end (in retrospect, that might not have been necessary). We got lots of reps for question words, learned some interesting personalized vocabulary, and we all got to know our estrella a bit better. I reviewed the details with the class throughout the interview, and made a slideshow about him for review tomorrow. After I interview a few more students, I’ll put together a quiz based on what we learned!

Class Activities

Fresh start: First day of Spanish 2

This is my first year teaching on block schedule, and I have to say that I am LOVING this January fresh start! Today was my first day with new students – 2 sections of Spanish II in the morning and 1 section of Spanish I in the afternoon. I got off on a really bad foot with Spanish 2 in August, and I have to say I did much better today. Here’s what we did:


1. Find assigned seats. I ALWAYS assign seats and have tried several different systems. This semester I added numbers to my desks and to my seating chart and it went soooo much better – no one sitting in the wrong seat! I stood in the doorway and greeted each student, asked their name in Spanish, and told them their number in Spanish. Bonus: taking role is a breeze – just see which desks are empty!

I had to use the restroom between first and second period so I locked the kids out until I came back. I wanted to be there when they first entered my room to greet them and tell them where to sit! I think everyone is more comfortable when they have an assigned seat from the start rather than sitting somewhere and then being moved later.

2. Name cards. This helps me learn names and is also an easy way to start out class in Spanish. Levanta la tarjeta. Baja la tarjeta. Levanta el marcador. Baja el marcador. Levanta el marcador y la tarjeta. Baja la tarjeta. Baja el marcador. Levanten los marcadores rojos…. I’m super positive and encouraging throughout the activity and it sets a great tone for the class.

3. Interest inventory – I copied this from one I saw posted on the Creative Language Class. I take them up as students finish and read them right away – if I don’t read them in class, they often don’t get read. I like to focus in on their responses to what do you think you’ll make in this class?, what do you want to learn in this class? and anything else I need to know? IEPs and 504s don’t always make it to me in time, and I really want to know from the first day of class if a student is diabetic or pregnant. I like What do you think you’ll make in this class? so that I know from the beginning which students I need to focus more attention on (they usually answer honestly!). In Spanish 2, I added the question, Are you interested in taking Spanish 3?  so that I can make sure that those students know the grade requirements for taking Spanish 3, and also so I can provide a few extra grammar explanations/activities for them to make sure that they are successful with the Spanish 3 teacher.

3. Syllabus – I’m on an 80 minute block, there’s plenty of time to do this and CI too.

4. The speech – “If you took Spanish 1 last semester these next two weeks will be really easy. If you took Spanish 1 last year, this time is for you. Here is what I need to make sure you know before we move on to new material…”


You shall not pass Spanish 2 if you can’t respond when I ask you ¿Cómo estás?

This is the part that I really messed up last semester. I took some resources my department gave me – a long list of verbs and some conjugation worksheets – and ran with it. It was awful. Too many words, too much decontextualized grammar, too much explanation, too much output and not enough input. Grades were predictably bad. The year before I had taught all Spanish 1s, and before that I was my own department and did what I wanted (and knew exactly what every single one of my Spanish 2 students could do in Spanish). With one semester of Spanish 2 with department curriculum behind me, I know what students need to learn to pass the county final exam, and I feel more confident to tailor my classes to my students’ needs, interests and abilities, while still hitting department requirements. The grammar we can review more slowly as we go along, and all those verbs? Not necessary (all that cramming didn’t help anyway). I have a much better idea of what they need to pass the final, and it’s not as much as what I did last semester. I can relax on some of the grammar (while making sure Spanish 3-bound students have it down) and focus on providing more comprehensible input.

Back to my lesson today: we copied a few basic phrases to support the goals listed above, and they ran through the questions and answers in Spanish with a partner. I started calling on students individually and asking them one of the questions – ¿Cómo estás? ¿Cuántos años tienes? ¿De dónde eres? When I got to ¿Qué te gusta hacer? it got a lot more interesting. Some students remembered words from Spanish 1 – Me gusta correr. Me gusta nadar. Some didn’t, and I helped them. I gestured and reviewed vocabulary as we went along, and found out what sport everyone played. It was fun! I expanded on answers where I could and told them my opinion on everything, gesturing for comprehensibility – No me gusta correr. ¡Me gusta comer! Me gusta cocinar y comer. No me gusta practicar deportes, pero me gusta hacer ejercicio. Me gusta caminar con mi perro y levantar pesas y bailar en mi clase de Zumba! No me gusta estudiar, pero estudio mucho para mi clase de internet… When I finished calling on everyone, I pulled up my “activity” vocab list on Quizlet – the verbs we actually learned and used last year. I went through each one with both Spanish and English showing (Spanish and a picture would have been better, but Spanish-English was what I had), and asked who liked each activity, continuing to circle and expand on answers.

5. La estrella de la semana – I know many teachers do “persona especial” interviews, but I really like how Kara explains her procedures. I had students fill out the handout she has linked in her post, and told them that we would be doing interviews throughout the semester, kind of like the discussion about likes and dislikes we had just had.

6. Closing – numbers review. With a few minutes left of class and most students done with their handouts, I needed something quick to fill the time. I pulled up Quizlet, froze the screen, and clicked through the numbers flashcards with the audio on, with students telling me the meaning in English. We did the same thing looking at the words spelled out.


I was very pleased with the amount of Spanish I was able to speak today, as well as the focus of our review, and the positive start. Hoping for my best Spanish 2s yet!