Monday, July 15, 2013

Spanish Grammar Flipbooks

A few years ago, I went to a differentiation conference, and the facilitator showed us teachers how to make a flipbook to take notes and jot down ideas at the conference.  Well, for me, it was the flipbook itself that made the biggest impact on me that day.  

I use flipbooks in my Spanish classes as a place for students to organize their grammar notes.  I like this because students can easily keep all their notes on possession, for example, together in one place on one page, and I don't have to worry about teaching it all at one time.  I can teach just a small rule like "There are no apostrophes in Spanish," we can add that to our notes, and then come back to sentence formation or possessive adjectives later in the year.  

Another benefit is that students can easily find the notes that they are looking for.  And if they're having some trouble with something, a simple cue can get them on the right track.  "Ooh, that's a verb that works like 'gustar' does." {Insert frantic flipping to the 'Gustar Verbs' page.} I give each student a clear plastic page protector for their binders to keep these in so that they remain in good shape.

Here are a couple examples of grammar flipbooks that my students have made.  

This is the Spanish 1 flipbook.  I'd like to add a section on the present progressive this year, so I'll probably be switching some things around to accommodate that.  Here's a page from the inside of the Spanish 1 flipbook:

This is from the Spanish 2 flipbook.  This is a perfect example of a page in the flipbook (this one is for commands) that I come back to throughout a couple units.  We learn one kind of command and practice it, then add on another and practice, etc. over the course of a couple months, but we always go back to the same page in our flipbooks to write the notes.  

In my multi-level Spanish 3/4 class, they make a couple flipbooks, but here's an example of the verb ending one that we do.  One place for all of their verb endings and irregulars.   

This coming year, in my quest to incorporate as much Spanish as possible, I'm thinking about using more Spanish in the grammar flipbooks, but we'll see how that pans out.  What's great about them is that you can change up the categories to whatever your needs or emphases are in your classes.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer School Highlights Week 4 - Calendar Class

As a middle school and high school teacher, I'm always venturing a bit outside my comfort zone when it comes to teaching elementary students.  That said, I love the opportunity to try out new hands on activities and also create an excitement for the Spanish language when the students are still young.  This summer, I teach four basic Spanish classes, each meets for 90 minutes a day and lasts for four days.

El Calendario (The Calendar)

This is my last week teaching Summer school and I am focusing on calendar words with these 1st-3rd graders.  We're learning about the days of the week, the months of the year, and seasons.  

The students made this foldable on Monday with the days of the week.  On the front, we put the three-letter abbreviation, inside, we wrote out the whole Spanish word and also the English translation.  Students then use it as a reference during games and activities.  Already on Tuesday they were celebrating when they "didn't need to look at the paper for that one."  :)

The kids love Ta-Te-Ti Bingo.  I like it because it gives the feel of Bingo without the time.  We usually have winners every three to five words, so students get to win often and also hear the vocabulary often. Using plastic sleeves and EXPO markers makes for quick transitions between rounds and no chips to have to deal with. 

In order to help us remember our months and seasons, we made a circular calendar.  Each student colored and decorated it with stickers to make it his or her own.  Then, I could quiz them with it; they could turn the pointer to the right month.  Or, they could use it as a reference when playing their online games later on.  

My classroom is pretty hot this week with the high temps and humidity outside, so we've taken a couple trips to the (air-conditioned) computer lab to play Spanish games.  The students could also use the foldable and calendar that we made to help them with their games.  This is our go-to game:  Hangman with days of the week and months. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer School Highlights Week 3 - Conversation Class

As a middle school and high school teacher, I'm always venturing a bit outside my comfort zone when it comes to teaching elementary students.  That said, I love the opportunity to try out new hands on activities and also create an excitement for the Spanish language when the students are still young.  This summer, I teach four basic Spanish classes, each meets for 90 minutes a day and lasts for four days. 

¡Conversemos!  (Conversation Class)

This week, I teach a conversations class to 1st through 3rd graders.  Since they are true beginners, we don't go much further than greeting each other, asking and telling how we're doing, asking and telling what our names are, and saying good-bye.  But I'm watching little ones who were too shy to talk on Monday confidently having short conversations in Spanish on Wednesday!  This class stumped me a bit at first, because I've never tried to teach this back and forth speaking with younger children.  Monday was a little rough because I tried to do too much "in the desk, repeat after me now" teaching.  Tuesday, I incorporated many more games to practice the vocabulary and that made a world of difference!  Here are some of the highlights of this week:

Since matching games worked so well during my colors class and my numbers class, I decided to make one this week too.  I used some wooden circles I had laying around from Michaels, and the kids really enjoyed practicing this way again.

We did a lot of ball games in which students added to the conversation when they had the ball in their hands, then they would throw the ball to someone else to continue the conversation.  (And we got some outdoors time, which is always great!)

We used this Ta-Te-Ti (Tic-Tac-Toe ) board as a mini Bingo-board.  We had a winner every three to five words, so we were able to have many winners and lots of chances to hear the vocabulary words. I said the words in Spanish so that the students heard the pronunciation multiple times and then they showed their comprehension by choosing the correct English translation on their game cards.

We also practiced with a basic memory game.  This is a quick game that I use in my high school classes also to review vocabulary. 

On Monday, we picked out talking buddies from the stuffed animal basket.  We practiced having conversations with the animals and the animals had conversations with each other.  Sometimes, the process of using a stuffed animal to do the talking lets shy or unsure students be more comfortable experimenting and practicing the language because it's not really them talking, it's the animal.


Later in the week, we used our talking buddies to put on simple puppet shows in which the animals greeted each other!  

"Musical Chairs" Spanish Vocabulary Game

This is a game that I've been using mostly with my elementary students who sign up to learn some Spanish during our summer school program.  The kids really enjoy it - the music, the dancing, the competition, and the luck, but it allows me to review vocabulary with them too at the same time.  I call it musical chairs, but there are no chairs involved, really.  So, maybe I should be thinking up a new name.  :)

Here's how we play:

1.  First, I make large cards out of construction paper or printer paper.  When I review colors with this game, I simply choose a piece of construction paper in each color.  When I review other kinds of vocabulary, I write the Spanish vocabulary, such as "Mucho gusto" on the big pieces of paper.  These pieces of paper get spread around the room.  I usually just choose random desks around the room to put these bigger papers on.

2.  Then, I make coordinating smaller cards.  For example, with the color version, I would take a half a sheet of the colored construction paper and write the Spanish word on it.  When I review other vocabulary, I'll write the English on these smaller cards, such as "Nice to meet you."  I then put these smaller cards into a manila envelope to play the game.

3.  Play some fun music (Por arriba, por abajo by Ricky Martin is my go-to song.) and encourage the kids to dance around the room.  When the music stops, the students stand next to one of the large pieces of paper around the room.  I allow multiple kids to choose the same card if they'd like.

4.  This is where the review/quizzing comes in to play.  I go around the room and we have a little conversation like:

     - Rosa, ¿de qué color es tu papel?
     - azul
     - Ah, sí.  Es azul.


     - Roberto, ¿qué dice tu papel?
     - Buenos días.
     - Ah, dice buenos días.  Y en inglés, ¿qué es buenos días?
     - Good morning.  

5.  After I've talked with everyone, I make a really big deal about choosing one of the small cards out of my manila envelope.  Students who are standing at the big paper that matches the little paper that I pull are out, and they are confined to dancing by the computer and helping to start and stop the music.  

That's pretty much all there is to it?  Do you have similar games that your young students have attached on to?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Online Student Journals using Google Docs

I love student journals.  The practice in fluency, vocabulary and writing in the first person is great - and I get to learn a lot about my students in the process.  My problem was that I hated lugging them around.  I had to have a place in the classroom to store them and then I had to carry them back and forth to school to grade them.  So, last year, I started online journals with Google Docs since we were assigning all students and staff with a gmail e-mail address.  Now, students keep their journals online, share them with only me, and I can grade them from anywhere as long as I have an Internet connection.  Here's how I did it.


1)  I created a template in Google Docs with the bare bones structure of what I wanted their journals to be like.  And since my long-term expectation was for students to use the same online document for all of their years of Spanish, I included links that would help me and them find their current entries more quickly.  I then "shared" the document publicly with anyone who has the link.  Here's what my template looks like:

Template for Online Spanish Journals

2)  Then, in class, we learned to access and use our journals.  I provided a link to the template on my classroom website.  Once opened, the students can then "make a copy" of it, which makes it theirs and not mine.  They then edit little details like the name of the file and their name on the journal.  Finally, they share it with me so that I can access the journal at any time. 

Having online journals has been an amazing improvement to my journaling process, but it's not without its drawbacks.  Here's my list of pros and cons.


  • Students can work on their journals anywhere they have Internet access, such as studyhall or at home.  They don't have to remember a certain notebook.  
  • I can grade them quickly from school or home, from  my computer, my laptop, my iPad, or even my phone.
  • I can use tools built in to Google Docs to know EXACTLY when a journal was written and also see records of revisions.  For example, if a journal entry was copy and pasted from a translator, for example, it will all magically appear at the same instant in the log of revisions.  (Of course, the same would happen if it were written in Word and copy and pasted, so discretion is advised.)
  • It's an example of incorporating technology into the curriculum in a meaningful way:  using technology to meet a requirement of the curriculum instead of using technology for its own sake.  


  • Not all students have reliable Internet at home, so they must be guided to make good choices on the work they choose to do in study hall.  I tell them that since they have access to a computer with Internet during study hall, then that's when they should do homework that requires the Internet!
  • I often have to write myself a note to remind myself to grade them since there's not an obvious pile sitting around to remind me.
  • Since students are on the Internet, there is a stronger temptation to use online dictionaries or translator sites inappropriately.  
  • Since students need in the Internet, I can not always suggest writing a journal entry when they are finished with their work early in class like when they were using regular notebooks.  However, if they have a device with them (we are open device) then they are welcome to.    

Have you done anything similar in your classes?  Any wisdom to share?