Saturday, November 28, 2015

How to rock a classroom observation

I'm not sure how your school is, but my school has one formal observation per teacher each year followed by multiple informal ("pop-in") observations. A lot of teachers feel completely comfortable allowing other people into their classrooms to observe - others
may feel a little nervous.

I've been observed a few times in the past couple of years and my observations have consistently gone well. While I won't totally discredit myself as an effective and engaging teacher, I will say that a lot of my success is dependent on the types of activities I have my students complete while being observed. The following activities have been very successful and well-liked during my observations. I do want to make one thing clear though - I never put on a dog and pony show. I plan my formal observations around when I complete the following assignments with my students. However, I do have a few tips to make things run a little bit more smoothly in your classroom.

Students activities that tend to go well during a formal observation:

1) Peer editing - In my classroom we do lots of peer-editing. This peer-editing may be on a larger, long-term project or a smaller in-class task. Either way, peer-editing is a sure-fire way to show that students are providing feedback for each other, exhibiting respectful behavior by making appropriate comments about classmate work, possibly working with technology and more.
2) Self-reflection or self-editing - Self-editing shows that students are setting personal goals and are responsible for their learning and progression through a project. Self-editing allows students to self-monitor and see what still has to be improved in an assignment or what he or she is already doing well.
3) Technology-based "response systems" - In my last post, I talked about Plickers. Plickers is a great tool because students love it, it produces nice data to look at afterwards, and it ensures each student is participating. In my district, data are well-liked, so websites/apps like Plickers, Socrative, and more, are helpful because it illustrates just how well the students are doing, and more importantly, how they are improving over time. This data can be used to inform teach instruction and identify students who need additional support. 
4) Group work - Group work is also great because, like peer-editing, it shows that students are working together to complete a task or further their learning. Any sort of mini projects or tasks where students work together to teach classmates something is especially exciting to observe.
5) Clear expectations - Posting classroom behavior expectations, deadlines, daily objectives, homework, and other important things is essential to running a smooth classroom. Students should always know where to look to see the posted homework (within the classroom and digitally if you have a site). In addition, when I have a long term project, I create a detailed calendar of due dates. While this may seem intimidating at first, after revising the calendar the first year you do the project, the due dates pretty much remain constant the subsequent years - you just need to change the actual dates. I always reference the calendar throughout the project so students know of the exact due dates coming up. It also serves as a great visual reminder for students to see the approaching deadlines.
6) Speaking the majority (or entire) class in the target language - Depending on the level of your students, teaching a foreign language in the target language is important. I usually switch to English while teaching my Spanish 3 students when I want to clarify something important or to emphasize a due date. Other than that, most of the class is delivered in Spanish.

Anyways, there are lots of interactive activities to have someone observe during a formal observation. One tip that I always have my students do is greet the observer at the start of class. I usually introduce the observer ("Clase, les presento a ____________") and then ask them to say, "Hola, senor/a ______________." That usually gets a chuckle out of the observer and takes the pressure off of the students if they feel nervous for being watched.

If you have other successful tips for an observation lesson, please leave them in the comments section below! There are countless ways to prove we are great at what we do :) 

By the way, there's a CYBER MONDAY sale on TPT this Monday and Tuesday! My entire store will be 20% off (including bundles!), and with the coupon code, you can receive a total or 28% off of each product in my store. Time to stock up on those holiday products, eh?

Happy teaching!

Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth -

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My new favorite app - PLICKERS!

So, Plickers.

At first, I was a non-believer. One of my colleagues learned about this new app through her teacher certification program and told us about it. I was at a different meeting the day she demonstrated Plickers to our World Language Department, so I really didn't understand the hype. During our next department meeting, all ten of my co-workers were creating the Plickers student cards with cardboard and tape. Why were they all doing this? Plickers couldn't be that special. 

But I was wrong.

After I witnessed the first ten seconds of my colleague do some bell work activities with Plickers in her Spanish 2 class, I was hooked. I was absolutely hooked. The next day I rushed to set it up using her Plickers student cards, and soon after, my own students were hooked. Plickers is the COOLEST thing ever.

Okay, so what is Plickers?

Plickers is a website and app that work together. You can do quick bell work activities, exit slips, or other formative assessments with this engaging, interactive app. Once you create a free account on (see below, top right corner), you print off unique Plickers student cards for the number of students you have in your largest class. 

Each Plickers student card is a unique QR code. Each side of the "square" (for lack of a better description), represents a different multiple choice option: A, B, C, or D. The letters are written in tiny gray font along the sides of the square.
I suggest either printing the cards on cardstock paper, or printing them on normal paper then taping them to a heavier paper like cardstock. This will preserve the cards over time. Sturdier versions are available to purchase on Amazon for a price. The cool thing is you only need to print enough cards for the largest class that you have. For example, if your largest class is 24 students, then you only need to print 24 cards. You can then reuse the cards for each of your classes.

Once you print the cards, you can go to and set up individual classes. So far, I have set up Plickers with both of my Spanish 1 classes.
If your school uses a gradebook like Powerschool, you can simply export your class roster into Excel and then copy/paste the entire list of students into Plickers. This is a lot easier than typing each individual students' names. You have to do this for each of the class that you want to set up.

Next, you go to "Library" along the top and create new Folders for each of the Plickers assignments that you want to do. I create a new folder for each time I use Plickers. For example, if I want to review definite articles with my Spanish 1 students, I have a folder that is specifically for definite articles. If I want to review the vocab from the current unit, I have a folder specifically designed for that vocab. You can see each of my folders below.
Once you create a folder with various questions (I usually do 6-8 questions each time I use Plickers), you have to "Add [each question] to Queue" for each class. This is the only negative I've seen for using Plickers because you need to add each question to your queue for each class. You cannot add an entire folder. It is a little tedious, but it's worth it!
If you have added all of the questions you want to use to each queue for each class, then you are almost ready to use Plickers! Here are the next steps:
1) Number each Plickers student card. Write the names of each student on the back of each card. The "Classes" tab along the top takes you back to your classes and rosters where you will see that each student has been assigned a specific Plickers student card number. For example, Johnny may be assigned Plickers student card #1. Therefore, label that printed out card 1, and then on the back write "Johnny." Since you can reuse the set of Plickers student cards for each of your classes, you may have up to 5 names (or more, if you teach more than 5 classes!) on the back of each card.
2) Download the free Plickers app (available for every type of phone).
3) Pull up the Plickers website on a projector screen or Smartboard in your classroom and go to "Live view" along the top.
4) The rest of Plickers is controlled from your phone. On the app, choose which class with whom you're currently working. If you correctly added questions to your queue, the questions you want to review should already be lined up and ready to go.
5) Click on the question that you want to be projected onto the screen.
6) Students then hold up and choose the correct rotation of their Plickers student card depending on if they believe the correct answer is A, B, C, or D. They must have their cards facing you without any obstructions.
7) You then click "Scan" on your phone and slowly scan your cell phone camera across the entire class, and here is where the magic happens: your phone will read the QR codes from each student and will register their answers: A, B, C or D.
8) As you scan students, their names will pop up on your phone's screen, and you will either see a green color if their answer is correct or a red color if their answer is incorrect.
9) Students know that their cards have been read by your phone when a check mark appears next to their name on the projector screen. They can put their cards down when that check mark appears.
10) Once everyone in your class has answered, you can go to "Graph" on the projector screen and see which answer(s) your students chose. You can then click "Reveal answer" and the correct bar graph choice will appear green. You can also choose to "Reveal answer" along with the student names and check marks, but I don't like doing that because it would expose each students' answers (correct or incorrect) to the rest of the class.
11) Once you are done with the Plickers activity, you can go back to the Plickers website and see a graph of each question and which students answered it correctly or incorrectly. This data is always available in the "Reports" tab.

So, why do I love Plickers?
1) It's super user-friendly. Aside from some work needed to print out and set up the Plickers cards, working with the cards, app, and website is really easy.
2) Students do not need devices to use Plickers - only the teacher needs a device. Yes, there are TONS of cool apps that incorporate student devices like Kahoot or Socrative, but a) not all students have a device, b) sometimes students' devices are confiscated, etc...
3) Students absolutely love Plickers. They are engaged. They are excited. They are PARTICIPATING. I started using Plickers with my most disengaged class that meets first period at 7:25am. When I ask them to repeat after me for Spanish pronunciation, they rarely do. The same students always speak up. With Plickers, I can rest assured that each student has to participate and that their voice is heard.
4) The Plickers website (and app) provide me with graphs to see how each question was answered.

A few cons:
1) I cannot divide the question results by student. For example, if I asked my class 5 questions, I cannot see how Johnny did on all five questions. I need to click on each question and see how Johnny did each question at a time.
2) It takes a few minutes to set up at the very beginning, but it's totally worth it.

Anyways, I cannot say enough good things about Plickers. My kids LOVE it. My kids are engaged. My kids are excited to participate in formative assessments (shhh, don't tell them that's what it is!). Plus, it requires each student to participate.

Please get started with Plickers today. You won't regret it.

Happy teaching!

Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth -

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Maestros de Español - Fall/Winter Blop Hop: November 1-4

Welcome to the Fall/Winter Blog Hop featuring your favorite maestros de español from Teachers Pay Teachers!

Below you will find various tips for teaching Spanish in the fall and winter months as well as links to four of my products that are exclusively on sale from November 1st until November 
4th. In addition to clicking the links below, these products can be found by searching for #fallwinterspanishsale on Teachers Pay Teachers.

In addition, be sure to visit the other maestros de español who are participating in this Fall/Winter Blog Hop! There are lots of us who are providing great resources and ideas for fellow Spanish teachers. Their links are found below.

Disfruten, and thanks for stopping by! Hopefully the long winter days seem a little shorter with these fun and interactive lessons :) 

I understand that students are antsy during the winter months. They have cabin fever, holiday fever, and more times than not, real fevers (staying locked indoors with all those germs is not good - ick!). Therefore, I try to spruce up my lesson plans to incorporate holiday themes and ideas. Of course it is pretty easy to talk about Spanish and Latino cultural traditions during these months. However, you can also tie in grammar points into simple lessons that have holiday themes.

Some teachers may feel that there is no time to do entire lessons on holidays. However, I often incorporate the current grammar points of the class into a lesson with holiday themes! For example, with my Spanish 3 students we often work with "por" versus "para" in December. To assess this grammar point, I have students write a prompt in the form of a letter to Santa (Papá Noel) where students ask for various personality traits. Students explain what purpose each personality trait will serve in the upcoming year. Each year I tear up while reading the letters because students write beautiful, reflective letters. They always seem to take this activity very seriously!

Also, my Spanish 3 students start to work with the present subjunctive mood right around the New Year. That allows me to create fun activities about New Years resolutions within the curriculum. "Yo espero que mis padres me den un perro" and other similar sentences practice the present subjunctive mood but also tie in current holidays.

Since my Spanish 1 students know a lot less vocabulary and complex grammar at this point of the year, I keep my holiday activities more basic for them. For Thanksgiving I have students interview classmates and ask about favorite Thanksgiving foods. This activity allows us to work with "Me/Te/Le gusta(n)..." as well as adjective agreement. We spend time adding descriptions to the Thanksgiving foods (e.g., El pavo es jugoso.)

For Christmas and New Years with my Spanish 1s, I incorporate ordinal numbers and the verb "tener" into an activity with the "12 Days of Christmas" and the simple future (ir + a + infinitive) to talk about plans in the New Year. 

Either way, tying current holidays into the Spanish classroom shouldn't be seen as an extra day to squeeze into the already packed curriculum - it can be easy to combine the current grammar points and holiday themes into a few lessons to keep students and teachers alike happy through the holiday months!

To get you started with some holiday activities, the following four products are on sale for 20% from November 1-4. Search #fallwinterspanishsale on TPT to see all of the Spanish items on sale during this event!
What do you want for Christmas? - "Querer" Interview Activity
The first is the one of my interactive Christmas activities for a Spanish 1 class. The activity focuses on the present tense forms of "Querer." Each student receives a unique card with an image of a gift on it. There are two sets of 32 cards - one set with just the image and the other with the image and the Spanish word for that image (e.g., coche). You can decide which set of cards is appropriate for your students. Students then travel around the room and ask each other, "¿Qué quieres para la Navidad?" Students record the information on a chart and then work with that information to make comparisons and talk about the gifts. This is a fun activity that gets students up and moving around the classroom and speaking Spanish! I always recommend practicing the pronunciation of the questions and vocabulary words used when completing an oral activity.
Wishes for the New Year - Present Subjunctive Mood
The next lesson is for a Spanish 3+ class when learning the present subjunctive mood. It's perfect for a quick assignment over winter break or when school is starting up again in the new year. With this product students choose various subjunctive indicator phrases (e.g., "Esperar que...") and create wishes for the New Year using the present subjunctive mood. For example, a student may say, "Yo espero que mis padres me den un perro."

The second part of the activity includes subjunctive mood and indicative mood indicator phrases and students need to decide which mood should be used. Students then write a sentence using that phrase. For example, an indicative phrase may be, "Es obvio que..."

Three Kings Day Webquest - English Version
This next is one of my best sellers. Students complete an extensive webquest on Three Kings Day. The English version of this webquest is on sale but a Spanish version is available separately for full price. Through this webquest students learn the meaning of Three Kings Day, who celebrates it, and what the traditions surrounding the holiday are. Students also compare and contrast traditions with Three Kings Day to those of Christmas. 

Two helpful websites are included at the top of the webquest and an answer key is included. Webquests are perfect for independent learning, days with a substitute teacher, early finisher work, and more! This is perfect for easing back into the New Year with students. 

Task Cards: Work Backwards with Double Object Pronouns
Finally, students in Spanish 2+ can practice working backward to identify the direct and indirect objects in a sentence. 36 unique task cards are included, and each contains a sentence that uses double object pronouns. For example, a card may read, "Te las dio." Students must create a sentence that clarifies who and what each of the pronouns are. A possible sentence could me "Su novio te dio las flores a ti." Students create 36 different sentences in this activity. The tenses used in the cards include present, preterite and imperfect. This is a great activity to review double object pronouns and really makes sure that students understand the pronouns. 

I hope you can use some of these tips and resources in your Spanish classroom this holiday season. Be sure to search #fallwinterspanishsale on TPT to see all of the other products on sale from November 1st until November 4th. 

Happy teaching!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Día de los Muertos

One of my favorite times of year has arrived - Day of the Dead, or Día de los muertos. Celebrated mainly in Mexico and various communities within the US, the Day of the Dead celebrates the idea that loved ones who have passed away return on November 1st and 2nd to visit their family members. 

Various traditions are carried out such as visiting the cemetery and graves of the departed, creating elaborate altars, and in general, celebrating the lives of those who have passed away. Despite being a holiday about death, Day of the Dead is actually a joyous event where people eat good food and drinks, listen to music, and have parties to commemorate loved ones. 

Below is a collection of fun and informative videos about Day of the Dead. I have some comprehension questions about the first three videos if you would like to use them in your classroom. The questions can be found for free on my TeachersPayTeachers website found here: Day of the Dead - FREE Video Activities

This first video (6:54) is a podcast that includes some basic information about what Day of the Dead is all about and various details of the unique traditions:

The next video (3:42) takes us through an art exhibit in Minneapolis where high school students created ofrendas for their loved ones. 

Finally, the last video (3:07) is a popular animated short film about a girl in Mexico who discovers the true meaning of Day of the Dead. 

Below are also two more short videos about Day of the Dead.

In the following video (1:47), two Mexican chefs from Los Angeles explain their experiences with Day of the Day traditions in their families as well as the important role that food plays on this holiday:

Finally, just for fun here's a tutorial on how to make the beautiful calavera makeup for Halloween costumes! (8:11)

Overall, Day of the Dead is an important holiday in Mexican tradition and helps students develop a new outlook on death. I recommend discussing the holiday in your classroom and having students complete the FREE comprehension questions that go along with the videos above!

Happy teaching!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dictations in the Spanish Classroom

I love doing dictations with my Spanish 1 students. Dictations:
1. teach my students the importance of spelling in Spanish (since it's a phonetic language!)
2. help my students recognize vowel and consonant sounds
3. strengthen my students' listening skills and focus on recognizing new vocabulary and sounds within teacher-spoken text.

I approach dictations in a very methodical way in my Spanish 1 classes. I complete four sets of dictations (three sentences each) throughout each chapter. The first dictation is an ungraded pre-test. Students then complete three different sets of graded dictations throughout the chapter. Finally, the chapter test has the same dictation as the pre-test. 

Choosing the dictations is a very important step. When writing the dictations, you need to make sure you choose vocabulary that has already been introduced to students. This is especially important if you're grading the dictations like I do.

The reason I grade the three dictations in the middle as a participation grade is important - I want to hold students accountable for learning the new vocabulary and learning the spelling and letter sounds. For example, right now my students are learning the most basic vocabulary like "el hombre" or "la mujer." When we introduce the new vocabulary, we spend time talking about the "silent h" at the start of "hombre" and reiterate that the "j" in "mujer" sounds like an "h" because that's how "j's" sound in Spanish. Therefore, since we discuss these tiny details, I expect my students to learn them and reproduce them during a dictation.

Depending on time, my students and I also practice a few of the dictations each chapter. This is the process of practicing the dictation:

1) I write the three dictation sentences on the board and students copy them down 
2) we talk about what each sentence means
3) we talk about what we THINK common errors were and why (for example: "How do you think people misspelled "hombre?" WHY do you think they forgot the "h"? [it's silent!])
4) we practice pronouncing the sentence or question together
5) students then pair up with a buddy and practice reading the dictations to each other and writing them down again on the opposite side of the paper
6) students compare the dictation with the one they copied from the board and self-correct
7) I then pass back the graded dictation from the previous day and students compare how they did on the practice dictation compared to the previous day's dictation

Many people ask why I practice the dictation AFTER I grade it. First of all, I grade the three dictations as a participation grade, so it's not weighted too heavily. I also grade them because I want the students to study the vocabulary and be responsible for recognizing and spelling it within a sentence. Finally, the process of practicing it AFTER grading it enables us to talk about common errors that were made and why they were made as well as further develop the skills for the final dictation that is on the chapter test. The chapter test dictation is weighted as a test grade which is of course more heavily weighted than a participation grade.

So, how do I grade dictations? I created a 12 point rubric that has been really great and easy to work with:

Needs support
Vowel sounds
Important sounds (ll, rr, h, j, qu vs cu, ch, etc.)
Vocabulary recognition (separation between words, letter choice, no blank spaces)
Sentence structure (periods, ?s, capitalization)

Total:            /12

As you can see, I grade my students on the following components: vowel sounds, important sounds, vocabulary recognition and sentence structure. After working with this rubric for over a year and adjusting it accordingly, I found the above rubric to be most effective at grading dictations at the Spanish 1 level. Some people may argue for a "0" column, but really a 4/12 means a student needs support no matter what - I personally don't feel a 0 column is necessary because it would pretty much tell me the same information.

I have found that students enjoy completing dictations throughout the year. It becomes a part of the classroom routine, and students really develop spelling, letter sounds, and vocabulary recognition throughout the course of the class. In addition, students learn the value of punctuation in Spanish like upside-down question marks, capitalization, accents, and more. I also find myself sprinkling in facts about letter sounds casually within everyday lessons - rarely do I spend an entire lesson solely focusing on dictations.

Hopefully with the above information you are ready to begin doing dictations in your Spanish classroom!

Happy teaching,

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The first few weeks of Spanish 1

Spanish 1 is an exciting class to teach. The high school where I teach is a regional school, so my incoming freshmen are from different towns and schools where language learning begins at different grades. Therefore, I spend the first few days trying to figure out what my students already know!

In this post I'll talk about what I find to be the most important activities for a Spanish 1 classroom in the first few weeks of school. They can be summarized with:

1) establishing classroom routines
2) introduction to the necessary technologies
3) figuring out what students already know
4) learning the importance of speaking Spanish
5) gaining an awareness of the Spanish-speaking population outside and inside the United States
6) learning Spanish letter sounds
7) learning the basics (months, days of the week, colors, numbers 0-10)
8) learning basic conversational phrases
9) learning about context clues and how they help us choose the correct answer

First off, I start the school year by establishing classroom routines. I explain to students that they are expected to come to class prepared (with a pencil, binder, Spanish workbook). Along those lines, I show them the participation rubric on which they will be graded each week. I point out important parts of the room like the "daily objectives" and "homework" bulletin board, the "missing student work" hanging folders, the cell phone jail, and more.

Next, my school requires each students to have parents sign off on an internet access form prior to receiving computer log-ins and passwords. I take my students to the library where the librarian speaks to them about internet safety and students hand in the signed

parent form. We take a trip to the computer lab (essential in my Spanish classroom!) where students view my class website and see where to view the daily class activities and the homework. I show them my favorite Spanish websites including,,, and Google Drive. We set up Google Drive so the rest of the year's activities are ready to go. Most importantly, I have students fill out a quick "demographics" form through Google Forms to see how many years of Spanish they have taken, whether or not they have internet access at home, which devices they can bring to the classroom, and more. I want to make sure I know my student population well.

As mentioned earlier, since my freshmen are all entering the classroom with different Spanish abilities, I give an entrance exam one day that is ungraded but allows me to see what students already know. Within this entrance exam I include a basic English grammar section where students identify parts of speech. I find this helps me identify students who need help right off the bat - if a student struggles with finding the verb or subject of a sentence, I know that remedial help is needed. This can be as simple as an extra meeting with me to discuss parts of speech or a session with a student tutor.

Next, I want my students to understand the value of speaking Spanish in the real world. Often time students are not dedicated to the subject matter if they don't understand its worth. Therefore, I have my students complete a webquest for where they look up available jobs in the United States, types of jobs (sales, education, science, etc.), quantity of jobs, requirements, and more. We have a follow-up discussion and students write paragraphs in English explaining how speaking Spanish will help their future jobs and how their perception of speaking Spanish in the workplace has changed after completing the webquest.

Similarly, I want students to realize that Spanish is spoken within their own town and state - they do NOT have to leave the United States to find speaking Spanish useful! We talk about the heavily-populated Spanish communities within our own state and the US in general. We talk about why states like Florida and Texas have lots of Spanish-speaking - we learn geography is an important part of language evolution. We fill out a map of Spanish-speaking countries and view maps of those regions and continents. Students realize that countries in Central and South American speak Spanish due to the Spanish conquistadores, and that countries like Haiti and Brazil speak French and Portuguese respectively because the French and Portuguese invaded them back in the day.

Once students begin to grasp the importance of speaking Spanish and an awareness of the Spanish-speaking communities around them, we start to learn the very basics of the Spanish language. We begin with vowel sounds - ah, ay, ee, oh, oo. We learn and review the days of the week with a quirky song to the tune of the Addams Family, numbers 0-10, months of the year, and writing the date. Before learning many of these topics, students complete quick pre-tests so I know how much they already know, and then they complete quiz quizzes after a few days of review.

I want students to start speaking conversational Spanish as soon as possible. The very first day of school we learn the phrases "¿Cómo te llamas?", "Me llamo ________," "¿Cómo se llama?" and "Se llama ______________." Next, we learn the differences between "tú" and "usted" so we can use phrases like "¿Cómo estas?" and "¿Cómo esta usted?" To tie in the Spanish-speaking countries and map activity, we complete an interactive lesson on "¿De dónde eres?" where each student receives a Spanish-speaking country card and interview classmates asking, "¿De dónde eres?" This enables students to interact with classmates, practice the question with "ser," and practice pronouncing the Spanish-speaking countries. We learn basic greetings and good-byes such as "Buenos días" and "Hasta luego." We practice all of these basic phrases by tossing around Carlos the Beaver and asking classmates.

Finally, we do a lesson on context clues in Spanish and how small details in the sentence, such as indefinite and definite articles, gender, and number, can help us eliminate incorrect answers and choose the correct answer. This is an important lesson to complete prior to any multiple choice-style assessments.

Overall, the start of the year in Spanish 1 is a lot of fun! I enjoy getting to know my students and really hooking them on the importance of learning Spanish. By having clear expectations, establishing class routines and engaging in interactive activities with classmates, the year is off to a great start!

If you're interested in saving money, you can purchase the Spanish 1 - First Few Weeks of School BUNDLE for a discounted price!

Happy teaching :)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Utilizing Google Drive in the Spanish Classroom

I'll admit it. I'm sort of Google Drive's #1 fan in the classroom. I have found countless ways to incorporate Google Drive into my Spanish classroom, so in this blog post I will explain the benefits and provide tips for starting it up in your classroom!

Here's why I love using Google Drive in my classroom:

  1. It’s free
  2. It allows for EASY COLLABORATION
  3. It saves work automatically
  4. I can provide immediate feedback (peer or teacher)
  5. I can share more resources 
  6. It saves trees!
  7. It makes your classroom run more smoothly
  8. I can identify plagiarism or unfair distribution of group work
  9. I can easily monitor student progress
  10. It holds students accountable for completing work
One of my favorite features as a teacher is definitely the immediacy of feedback. Whether between peers or me and the students, feedback appears as soon as it is written. I have my students submit drafts of essays and projects to me on Google Drive. If I choose to provide feedback on a Friday night or over the weekend, students have the remainder of the weekend to edit their work - they no longer need to wait until Monday to receive my feedback.
My second favorite feature is the "see revision history" where I can see who is editing and writing each part of the essay or project. This feature is essential for ensuring that students are fairly distributing the work during group projects and producing authentic work. The "see revision history" button can be found under "File" and color-codes each student's work. 
So which features of Google Drive do I utilize within my classroom? The quick answer is all of them. I use the following features for the following reasons, and this is in no way an exhaustive list:
  1. Google Docs - student essays, student collaboration, immediate peer- or teacher-feedback
  2. Google Sheets - logging student growth data for school-wide initiatives, charting growth and averages for student assignments and assessments, entrance and final exam data, project sign-ups
  3. Google Slides - student presentations, group presentations, teacher-created presentations, presentations needed for Professional Development workshops
  4. Google Forms - assessments (multiple choice, paragraph response, short answer, check all of the answers), exit slips or bell work, student feedback, parent feedback, department feedback
  5. Google Drawing - digital posters for student presentations, group posters, storyboards
  6. Google Voice - recording student Spanish pronunciation
Students can collaborate on the same Google Drive feature at the same time. This is one of the most obvious benefits of using Google Drive for group work - students no longer need to crowd around one computer or a conference table to work together. Students no longer need to get together on the weekends to complete a project. Students simply log into Google Drive and complete work whenever they want.
One of my favorite features as a teacher is being able to provide meaningful, specific feedback. In Google Docs (or any other feature), I simply highlight a word or image and click "insert" --> "comment" and provide my feedback. The feedback then appears on the right-hand column of the essay, almost like a sticky note, and is tied to the highlighted word or image. The settings on each of the Google Drive features can be changed so that students can either edit the document or simply write comments. This adds a safety net if you're concerned about students editing other student work inappropriately (if that DOES happen, remember you can look at the "see revision history" to see what was edited and who did it).
In addition, Google Voice is an incredible feature for a language classroom. With Google Voice, a new phone number is set up that connects with your gmail account. Students can use their cellphones to call this number and record a voicemail of various tasks in Spanish. Specifically I have students read aloud their Spanish oral presentations and I highlight words in their Google Doc essays that were mispronounced. The best part about this is that there is no actual phone needed for the new Google Voice number - the voicemails are simply sent to your email and you can listen to them there.
Using Google Drive has made my classroom run more smoothly. Why? For one thing, it is very clearly organized. I create a folder for each of my classes that I "share" with each student in the class. From there, students "add folder to 'My Drive'" and always know where to find it. I am then responsible for adding sub-folders for marking periods, projects, or other categories.
Google Drive also enables oral presentations in my Spanish class to run more smoothly because all of the student presentations are found in the same class folder. Gone are the days of USB drives and emailing presentations - everything is found in the same location. Simply going down the list and clicking each presentation is efficient and easy.
Creating Google Presentations to practice vocabulary words is fun, easy, and students can practice as home. For every vocabulary unit, I create a funny and engaging Google Presentation for the vocabulary words. At the beginning or end of each class, we breeze through the presentation and recite the vocabulary words that are appropriate for each photo. I include these Presentations within the sub-folders so that students can access them and use them to review for upcoming assessments.
Finally, I can monitor student progress and adjust my instruction very easily for the next day. As students write their essays in Google Docs, I can view the essays at home at night and look for common errors. If I see a lot of students struggling with certain vocabulary or grammar points, I can add a quick lesson to the following day's plan about remedying these errors.
So, what are the first steps? If students do not have accounts or if your school is not a part of Google Apps for Education, then students (and you!) must create accounts for free. Record the student emails and create "Contact Groups" for each class under the "Contacts icon" in Google. This makes sharing your initial class folder with the students easy because you just need to type in the class period (or whatever you name the folder) in the "share" option.
Next, I like to discuss with students the concept of the honor system. In my Spanish classrooms, I do not allow students to "restrict" who can see or edit their documents. I do this for various reasons - we often peer-edit and need to see and sometimes edit classmate documents. Also, I want to develop the expectations of integrity within my classroom. I remind students that I can see everything they do in the "see revision history" button, so this helps dissuade any inappropriate editing.
Finally, I make sure to organize the class folder with various sub-folders, either by marking periods or projects. Once you share the initial class folder with the class, you never need to click "share" again. By simply adding sub-folders to the class folder, you are in charge of organizing the folders and tasks for students.
Here are some more helpful tips:
  1. When adding images to Google Docs or Presentation, go to "tools" and then "research" in order to search for images on the right-hand column of the screen and simply click and drag them into the Doc or Presentation. This enables students to easily add images instead of going to a new tab in the browser and copying and pasting.
  2. Upload additional files and resources for students that students can access even outside of school
  3. Encourage students to communicate and plan parts of the project through the "chat" feature (as long as they're actually working!)
  4. and so many more!
So, there is only one last thing to do - take the plunge and start using the features of Google Drive in your classroom now!