Saturday, September 16, 2017

Yoga in the Spanish Classroom

Our students are stressed. We are stressed. It seems that everyone is stressed these days, and with school becoming more competitive (college applications, AP courses, etc.), it seems only natural that we should implement some calming techniques into our classrooms. It helps us slow down our crazy days, and more importantly, it helps students cope with the stress of their day.

For the past couple of years I have been practicing one yoga pose with my students - the tree pose. Watch the 2 minute video below for a brief explanation of this easy pose. 

The pose itself is pretty easy to do, so it shouldn't take long to teach your students how to "find their trees."

I tend to do the tree pose in my class at different points depending on the mood of my class:
1) If students are not participating and seem really disconnected from the class, we will do the tree pose for 30 seconds. The tree pose brings awareness back into the classroom so students seem to focus better afterwards.
2) If students are talking too much and can't seem to begin class or an activity efficiently, we will do the tree pose. 30 seconds of calm and quiet definitely slow my students down so that they are ready to begin class. 
3) Finally, if my students are stressed with an upcoming test or other events, we will do the tree pose. Deep breathing for 30 seconds and focusing on balance seems to allow us to forget about the outside world for a few seconds. 

You may be thinking: "There is NO way I can get my students to do yoga in my classroom." I promise you that it's possible. I have done this for the past 3 years with all different types of students, ages, and levels. My 8th grader love it, and my 11th graders enjoy it. I have gotten the captain of the basketball team to do yoga as well! With a little practice and convincing (at least the first time), students will be asking to do yoga within a few days. 

To recap, doing 30 seconds of the tree pose is a phenomenal way to bring focus back into your classroom and lower stress. Try it out sometime soon!

Happy Teaching!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Two Fun Icebreakers for Spanish Class for the Beginning of the Year

Happy start of a new school year! I don't know about you, but my summer flew by...all for good reasons! My summer began with a trip to Spain with a group of my high school students and ended with my wedding and honeymoon to Hawaii. Every part of the summer
was fantastic, but now I'm relieved to be back in some sort of a normal routine. More importantly, I'm excited to get my creativity back in the classroom. 

To start the year off on a positive note, I adapted an icebreaker we did at a faculty meeting for my classroom. This icebreaker allowed students to share something about their summer vacations and learn about their classmates while also practicing the preterite verb tense. The students had an absolute blast and I can't wait to tell you about it below!

Paper Airplane Icebreaker

The concept is simple. Students write their name on a blank piece of paper. Then they write a sentence (or two) using the preterite tense to state what they did this past summer. I prefaced this activity with a quick review on forming the preterite tense since I knew my student brains were a little rusty from the vacation. 

Once students wrote their sentence on a piece of paper, I asked them to fold it into a paper airplane. Many were shocked that their teacher asked them to make a paper airplane. I was shocked that many didn't know how to make a paper airplane :)

As the students finished up their airplanes, I asked them to stand in a circle around the room. On the count of 3 we all carefully threw our airplanes. Then, students grabbed an airplane that was not their own and sat back down in their seats. 

Here is the cool grammatical piece: Instead of simply reading aloud what their classmate wrote, I asked the students to convert the sentences from the "yo" form as it was written to the "él/ella" form. Therefore, instead of stating, "Yo nadé en el mar" the student would read aloud "Juan nadó en el mar." We tossed around my stuffed animal to share out each response. 

Despite it being the third day of school and first time producing Spanish in a few months (for most), the students were all engaged, excited, and enthusiastic to be working with paper airplanes and the preterite tense. This also allowed students to hear about their classmates' summer experiences and learn more about each other. I highly recommend completing this activity at some point, even as just a review on grammar! It doesn't have to necessarily serve as an icebreaker. 

Skittles Game

This next icebreaker also stems from an inspirational faculty meeting activity. I have yet to try it within my classroom, but I can't wait to try it next week! For this activity, it works best if you give your students Skittles or a different colorful candy. However, with many schools sticking to "healthy food only," it can be adapted to be completed with colorful blocks or pieces of paper, puzzle pieces, etc.

For this icebreaker, each student receives an individual bag of Skittles (or one colorful block, etc.). The students then remove one Skittle from the bag and depending on what the color is, they must share the following information with the class:

red = favorite superhero

yellow = favorite food
orange = favorite outdoor activity
green = favorite vacation spot
purple = favorite thing about the school

Of course these categories can be adjusted for whatever interests your students may have. 

Students can share their responses aloud with classmates in Spanish. This activity can even be utilized at the lower levels of Spanish since most levels can articulate their favorite items in Spanish (ex: Superman es mi superhéroe favorito). 

Overall, these two activities are a great way to ease back into the school year while also having fun, sharing summer experiences, and getting to know your students. What better way to start the school year?

Happy teaching!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Enter to win one of two $50 TPT Gift Cards

Why not enter another Raffle to win one of two $50 Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards? Teachers need all of the help they can get this time of year - hopefully this gift card will help you out.

Buena suerte!

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Happy Teaching!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

How to survive the end of the school year (in one piece)

I think this is always the most difficult time of the school year - the home stretch between April vacation and summer vacation. At the high school level, that time is riddled with AP exams, and every teacher is scrambling to finish the curriculum for the year. Below are a few tips for making this challenging time of year productive and meaningful for students and teachers.

1. Prioritize your curriculum. For reasons unknown (and known!), we always struggle to teach everything that we need to teach by the end of the year. Therefore, it's essential to prioritize your curriculum. What do your students absolutely need to master before moving onto the next level of the language? Speak with teachers in your department, both horizontally and vertically, to determine what should be taught and what could be left out. For me, it is important that I begin teaching my Spanish 2 students the preterite tense. I slightly rearranged the order of my curriculum so that my students will have at least 6 weeks to practice the regular preterite tense before advancing to Spanish 3 next year. 

2. Refocus your students with yoga. This might sound ridiculous, but my high school students love to do yoga every once in a while. I limit the moves to the tree pose. When I see that students are either too tired and not responsive or overly energetic and all over the place, I calmly state that we are going to "find our trees." I got a few eye rolls at the start of the year when I first did this, but you would be amazed at how many students enjoy it now. All students participate - even the most athletic of the 15-year old boys who you would not imagine doing yoga in a thousand years. I usually have the students "find their trees" (or cacti :) ) and hold it for one minute while being silent. This exercise really does seem to refocus the group and bring their positive attention back to learning Spanish. I recommend trying it out in your class! Check out the brief Youtube video if you want to see how to do a tree pose properly.

3. Keep students engaged with technology. I have always been a big advocate for Plickers as a formative assessment tool, but I recently discovered Quizlet Live. Each student needs a device in order to play Quizlet live, and the classroom needs a projector (either a Smartboard or another screen). As the teacher, you log onto your Quizlet page and select a set of flashcards with which you want to work. Then, you choose the option "Quizlet Live" and students enter the code on their devices. Once all students enter the code, Quizlet creates groups of students within the classroom and students must move to sit with their group members. When the game begins, students in each group are given a multiple choice question and each group member has four distinct answers to choose from. If there are three people in the group, then the entire group will look at 12 total options. Only one student has the correct
option in front of them on their device, so students must work together to determine who has the correct option. As teams answer questions correctly, the projector shows each team's progress. Whichever team answers 12 questions correctly in a row wins that round. You can play as many rounds as you want. This is great for practicing new vocabulary or grammar. Above is an image of the projector screen. When your Quizlet flashcards are in Spanish, the team names actually convert to Spanish which is a neat feature! Even my sleepiest of students love this game and you'll be surprised to see how engaged each student is!

So there you have it - three tips to make the end of the school year bearable for teachers and students alike. Good luck - we can do this :)

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Happy teaching!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

$80 in TPT Gift Cards!

It's time for another TPT Gift Card give-away! This time there are 2 $40 gift cards up for grabs. This is perfect for purchasing some high quality products from TPT as the second semester starts up. 

To enter the give-away, please visit the following link. You have to simply "Follow" each of the participating sellers on their TPT store site. 
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Thanks for your support, and good luck!

Happy teaching!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

'Tis the season for peppermint mochas, holiday music, and shopping! We want to help YOU out - enter below for your chance to win one of THREE TpT gift cards ($50, $20, or $10). Holiday shopping just became that much sweeter!

Please become a follower of my blog and my TpT store in order to enter! More information is found below in the link. 


Enter to win one of THREE TpT gift cards!

Happy teaching! (and shopping)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Parent Teacher Conferences

I started teaching in a new district this year, and to my surprise, they have parent teacher conferences every fall. I had only known these to be an elementary school event, so I was surprised and excited to try them out at the high school level! Everyone told me to print the student grade report and use that as a basis for my conversation with parents regarding student progress in my Spanish class. However, I wanted to do something more than that. 

In the weeks leading up to parent teacher conferences I did print the student grade reports. I highlighted assignments and grades of concern and wrote notes. The averages for the breakdown of the grade categories (homework, participation, assessments) were also highlighted. This information was the starting point for me figuring out what to discuss with parents. 

In addition to the highlighted grade report, I wanted to create a quick handout where I outlined things that the student does well in my Spanish class, things that can be improved, and which goals the students should have moving forward. In addition, I provided a list of the useful websites for our class as well as my contact information. I emphasized the times that I was available for extra help, too. I have this form available for free here: Student Reflection Form for Parent Teacher Conferences

I completed that form for the ~20 students for whom I had conferences scheduled but realized it was a great opportunity to encourage student reflection as well. Therefore, the morning of the parent teacher conferences, I asked all of my students to complete the form as a reflection of their own progress during the first quarter. Students completed the form without seeing what I had written about them. I collected their reflections, photocopied those for which I had conferences, and scanned all of them so I had them on file. 

Next, I compiled a packet of information for each of the parents with whom I had a conference. The packet included: 
- the grade report with highlighted areas of concern
- the student reflection form that I completed
- the student reflection form that the student completed
- the Lend an EAR to Student Success Handout

I began each 10 minute conference with a quick summary of student performance based on the highlighted grade report. I pointed out the assignments on which the student did well as well as assignments that could have been revisited (I allow quiz retakes under certain parameters in my class). 

Next, I showed parents the student reflection form that I had filled out alongside the reflection form the student had filled out. We compared the two and discussed any discrepancies in perceptions of student progress. For example, if I felt that Johnny struggled with completing homework but Johnny said that completing homework was his strength, we discussed that point more closely. Having the highlighted grade report was a nice resource to use at this point in order to look at the actual grade percentages. 

I ended the conversation with a reminder of the Lend an EAR to Student Success Handout that I had handed out during Open House earlier in the year. The handout has a few general tips with a snazzy acronym to support parents in helping their student succeed in the classroom. The handout is available for FREE on my TPT store so check it out!

Overall, I received very positive feedback from the parents about the conferences. In particular, they loved comparing the student reflection form that I had completed with the one their student completed. A few even said how clever the idea was! I am fortunate to work in a district where the parents are extremely supportive, and they truly appreciated the packet of helpful information I handed out. 

Do you have any ideas for carrying out successful parent teacher conferences? Comment below!

Happy teaching!