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!

Welcome back to my blog!

Welcome back!

I plan to continue the Spanish blog I created while living in Madrid, Spain during the summer of 2014. Last summer I spent two months living in the heart of the city and explored every corner of the beautiful castizo streets. I wrote about my experiences from food to popular music. 

Here's a little bit about me:
I am in my fourth year of teaching high school Spanish, and I absolutely adore it. Working with high school students is fun, enlightening and really makes my career seem less and less like work each day. 

I teach Spanish 1 and 3 honors, but have dabbled with other levels in past experiences (specifically 2 and 4). I make interactive lessons that tie in pop culture where possible. Google Drive plays a huge role in how I teach my class. 

This blog:
My goal is to produce two blog posts each month. I'll focus on tips that I've found useful within my classroom and new lessons and ideas. Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store at the following link: Senorita's Spanish Class

Thanks for tuning in, and I look forward to sharing this blog with all of you!

Happy teaching!