Do parents sign the syllabus?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

This year I'm not requiring it. My students won't be tempted to forge their parent's name. Instead, I gave my Spanish II and III students a brief list of supplies and class expectations in the form of a letter. The student reads the letter to a parent and then takes a picture of the parent with the letter. The student then submits the letter to me in Google Classroom. 

I even got a special note from a parent!

I even got a special note from a parent!

I used to spend hours on a detailed syllabus that often ended up in the recycling bin. This year, the message I want students (and their parents) to hear is that although we will have little formal homework (read: packets or worksheets), students are fully engaged during class and most likely acquiring heaps of Español. What has been your experience as a teacher or a parent with the course sylaubuss?


Tree nuts

Grade 9. Spanish II.

Day One.
I was sharing with my students a bit about how SLA (Second Language Acquisition) works. The more relevant, personal or interesting the content, the easier it will be to acquire the language. To help make my point, I asked if anyone was allergic to nueces (nuts).  

Benji quickly raised his hand and proclaimed that he was allergic to tree nuts. 

The next question came from me: Which nuts are actually nueces de árbol (tree nuts)? 

Benji wasn't entirely sure. He did know peanuts are not nueces de árbol as they grow in the ground. 

The class started to head in the wrong diretion. Lots of kids were blurting out (in English) to verify if their chosen nut (pecan, hazelnut, pistachio, etc.) was, in fact, a nuez de árbol. Sensing pending chaos, I abruptly stopped them all with a request. 

                     Benji, will you please prepare a presentation on tree nuts for the class for tomorrow?

                     Why should I have to do a presentation on tree nuts if no one else has to do one?  

                     Well, you are the only one with a tree nut allergy.

We then moved on to singing a short song.  Class ended. 

Day Two.
A student raises his hand. I had forgotten his name for a moment. 

Maestra, can I do my presentation?

Sensing the confusion on my face, another student helps. Yea, when can Benji do his nueces de árbol presentation. 

Still perplexed, I answer, más tarde

We do a few more activities and Benji asks again if he can do his nueces de árbol presentation?

At this point, I say ahora. 

Benji walks up to my computer. Signs himself in to his Google Account and shares a short presentation he created on nueces de árbol. 

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Students Host Twitter Chats

In an attempt for our kids to better understand the power of social media, I decided they would host their own Twitter chats as part of our Spanish class. A Twitter chat is a conversation that takes place online, in public, around a unique hashtag usually over Twitter. Twitter chats usually last an hour and have a host or moderator who prepares questions prior to the chat. Because building a positive digital footprint is a goal for our Spanish Technology class, I thought this authentic experience would be helpful for them to learn to participate in online conversations while also using their Spanish to discuss issues of interest. Our chats last for 30 minutes and take place under the hashtag (#) Amigoweb. Amigoweb is hashtag (#) I saw floating around the Twittersphere for years dedicated to, I believe, students studying Spanish. My class has been using the hashtag for the last few years to share our learning and connect with others passionate about español. The purpose of our organized Twitter chats is for students to lead a chat --where they would produce content and not just consume-- and to help other classes and students studying Spanish. 

Here is how we get started:

  • Groups of students (two-three) choose a topic of interest such as food, music, sports, weekend activities, etc.
  • Students generate five questions for their chat and write each one on a Google slide. 


  • Students download each slide as a jpeg and schedule their tweets at five minutes intervals on their particular day.
  • Students also keep a list of  images or articles they could add to the conversation on the fly.  They typically keep these links handy in an open Google document so they can be inserted quickly into the chat.
  • Prior to the chat, students promote their chat using #amigoweb, #langchat or even Whats App to invite friends from other places. 


  • Time to host!  Hosting duties include welcoming the audience, responding to answers with comments or additional questions, and then profusely thanking the audience for coming. Animated gifs are usually flying during the last few minutes of the chat. 
  • The rest of the class plays the role of the audience. They must respond to every question and keep the conversation going. 
  • We reflect after each chat. We ma use paper, a blog, another Tweet or even Storify. Storify is an online application that helps summarize a Twitter chat.

Learn from my mistakes:

Triple-check your school calendar for potential conflicts in your schedule.  It's a challenge when your class period changes and kids have to alter their time or even date of their scheduled tweets. Of course, it can be changed, but it's frustrating when the time changes and you have contacted other schools to participate. 

Encourage students to cast a wide net in terms of both topics and questions. Not everyone loves theater and some students work during the summer and have limited travel opportunities. The idea is that the questions can be answered by the majority of students participating in order to keep the conversation engaging for the entire group. 

Promote their chats with your colleagues via Twitter, Facebook or even a personal phone call to guarantee you have some outside participation. One or two people from outside your class make all the difference. Students love seeing one of their other Spanish Teachers, Silvia, pop on for a few minutes. 

Remind students to embed culture into their questions. Some will do so automatically but others may need specific examples of how to embed it into their chat.

Remember, it's a scary to put yourself online and your students feel the same way. Be kind and go slow. Discuss the reasons for building a positive footprint and how tweeting can help. Here is our rubric (student created) for our general tweets. My kids are more successful when we discuss the why and we review expectations prior to a chat. We had one example last year of a student from another class who called his classmates "estupidos". My class was pretty hard on the student's tweet at first. Then we talked about how we had no idea what kind of conversations their class had had on why and hot to build a digital footprint but it was our job to help out.  Cassidy responded:

Lastly, if you are a Spanish teacher, be prepared for the occasional 'Yo me gusta'. It's not a representation of you, it's the definition of intermediate level discourse.  Kids are creating spontaneously. It is difficult to think quickly and always type accurately. It is probably not the time to correct the student in front of the entire class in the middle of a chat. That said, practice a bit ahead of time with some of the common languages your students will need to respond. Most of my kids do try to be more accurate in Spanish when they know they have a public audience. I had two students ask last week if gracias had an accent on it. 

Please let me know if you get your own Twitter Chat started. My students and I would love to pop in and support you. 



Reflecting on President Obama's Speech

We discuss current events everyday in our Dual Language Tech Class. Students read El Pais and another online newspaper of their choice such as  La Prensa, or CNN en Español. Today,  most students read about President Obama's farewell speech as it was plastered all over the headlines around the world. Only one student had actually seen a portion of his speech last last night.

After students placed the location and a description of the event on their My Maps, I gave them this BBC article to read. I had them read it with the help of Lingro. I like Lingro because the content (input) is in the target language and the Lingro dictionary gives each student the individual support they need. Students first add their website to the Lingro site and chose which dictionary they want. Then, they just click on an unknown word and the English translation pops up. For example, I learned tambalear this morning.

Lingro-the Coolest dictionary know to hombre

Lingro-the Coolest dictionary know to hombre

Next, at their tables (groups of three or four) they shared two or three messages of Obama's that resonated with them.

Side note: I had the person living closest to our school start. I like to sneak in simple requests that prompt questions such as, ¿Dónde vives tú? and language such as más lejos whenever I can. It also serves an authentic purpose as my students can be slow to start without structure or guidance. I gave them three or four minutes to share their thoughts.

Then, each student used Canva to represent their quote(s) visually.  Canva is simple to use and the templates are absolutely gorgeous.  Canva makes design stressless for even my most reticent high school designers. 

Lastly, some students shared their image under the hashtag #amigoweb and tweeted it out. I did have a few students want to share something negative regarding President-elect Trump but they refrained after we discussed their digital positive footprint and how we ought to follow Obama's vision of positivity, inclusiveness and hope. One student did use an image of Trump as part of her Canva poster but in a hopeful and respectful manner.


Depending on the level of your students, I would teach important language structures prior to students reading the BBC article or make an embedded reading/simpler version of the article, focusing just on the Siete Frases, making the content more accessible.

Another option for this reflective assignment could be to show the speech with the audio en español o inglés (which I still may do) and then students use EdPuzzle to crop/edit just a portion of the speech and add simple commentary, subtitles or questions in the target language.

Lots of options for sure. 

A special shoutout to Elizabeth Dentlinger for nudging me to share today's class with a few more details. 

I'm not sure about your classes but conversations around the election this year have often been tense. As a result of the election, many students have become quiet, nervous and unsure about what and how to share their opinions. I try and support all my students and their opinions but I had tears in my eyes today after reading a few of their tweets. I do believe, however, as a result, there is hope. 

How are you planning to discuss and mediate the current climate with your students in the months to come?

Salvando la Nochevieja

Salvando la Nochevieja is my first shot at creating a Breakout EDU game for my Spanish class.

Overview Video:

Set-up Directions:

1-Print out the Digital Resources.  

2-Put your Breakout EDU box in the middle of the class. Put grape tic tacs (or another grape candy) and a few WE BROKE OUT celebration signs in the box. Close the box and set all locks on the hasp except one of the 3-digit locks needed for the small box.

3-Put the key to padlock, the black light and the USB drive n the small box. Place a 3-digit lock on it and set to 724. Hide the box. I like to put it on top of the hanging LCD projector.

4-Hang the flight map in an obvious place and hide the key (numbers to letters) under a table. Solution to one of 4- letter word locks: tres

5-Distribute the food pictures on different tables/chairs and the 2 QR codes in a semi-obvious place. Solution to one of the 3- digit number locks on the small box: 724.

6-Put the metro map on a table. Use the invisible pen and write “Lee lo que está escrito encima del monumento” on the back of the 5 and “No hay nada aquí” on the back of the 7. Hang the 7 and the 5 in a very obvious place on the wall. Be sure they can easily be removed from the wall. Place the Metro clue in a small envelop and save for later use. The facilitator will share this clue with the group when someone begins to read the Latin on top of monument. Solution to the 5-digit letter/number lock: colon

7-Hide the book Don Quijote (or another book not normally present in your class) with the two Google Maps clues inside. Solution to one of the 4- letter word locks:  PRAR

8-Place text conversation in an envelope and hide under a chair. Leave the Fechas Importantes document  (with a toy train or printed train on top of this document to make it easier) in an obvious place.  Solution to one of the 3-digit number locks: 334

9-Place the Mecano clue in an envelope and hide it. Solution to the 4-digit lock: 5162

10-Set-out a few pieces of paper, a computer with a screen and speaker and a few QR readers. Extra chromebooks or computers are helpful but not required.

11-Place the two Hint Cards on top of the box. Be sure you have the Metro clue close to you (in a pocket is good) and out of site. 

12-Read students the storyline and and then start the digital timer at 45 minutes. 

See Author's notes for pre and post activities for this game. 

Visit Breakout EDU or the new Breakout EDU Español FB page (gracias a Martina Bex) for more games and lots of support. 

Footprints ... en español


This is my second year teaching a technology course to our grade 10 Dual Language (studying English and Spanish) students. We spend a large portion of the course learning how to create a digital footprint. Students are often hesitant to jump in. They have been exposed to the dangers and the what not to do discussion for years. The aim of the class is to help students cultivate a positive huella digital that will serve them today as well as in the future. Last week, students brainstormed reasons to create a positive healthy online presence.     

  • Help others (locally and around the world)
  • Employment (now and in the future)
  • Earn money (lots of examples of teens making 💰 online)
  • Improve communication in Spanish and English
  • Amor (a future girlfriend's parents will allow you (or not) to date their daughter💜)
  • Connect with others about school, sports, hobbies, jobs, health, college, etc.
  • Universities will see a more creative and comprehensive side of you  
                     One of our first #amigoweb Twitter Chats last fall.

                     One of our first #amigoweb Twitter Chats last fall.

Last year we created our own weekly Twitter chat. We revitalized #amigoweb which I saw online a few years ago. The idea is that teachers bring their students to a computer lab or use their Chromebooks to participate in a Twitter chat en español during class. Teams of students worked on topics that would be interesting to World Language students such as sports, holidays, food, music, etc. and created six questions to discuss during the 45 minute chat. The rest of the class also participated in the chat and encouraged others (from around the country or just down the hall) with replies and digital resources. Certainly, some chats were more engaging than others. We are learning to produce valuable content rather than just consume it so these chats give us a chance to practice. We will be starting our new #amigoweb chats in January and   would love your class to join us. Dates and topics will be shared out in December. 

Reflecting upon last year, I realized students needed a bit more guidance to be successful with their online content. So, this year, students created a  rubric en español for our first tweets and online communication. We also worked on a profile for our twitter account.  It is an awesome start but will take constant modeling and tweaking from me all year. Feel free to make a copy or alter the document to better suite your students needs. We would also appreciate feedback and how to make our rubric more effective if you or your students have suggestions. As always,  please share your thoughts on students building their huellas. 


Crafting their Twitter profile was their first experience sharing with the world.

Breakout EDU


Searching for Dr. Johnson’s antidote was my first experience with Breakout Edu during the First Annual Google Summit in Breckenridge back in May of 2015. Breakout Edu is the creation of James Sanders and Mark Hammons who had the brilliant idea of transforming the ever popular Escape Rooms into a classroom activity that involves solving clues, puzzles and problems to break into a box rather than escape. I assume escaping our classrooms wasn't their goal, but quite the opposite. Students work together, think critically and learn relevant curriculum in the process. After playing in Breckenridge, I was hooked and dragged my friends to numerous Escape Rooms all over the country, including Valencia. Although I was hooked on the concept, it took another experience playing Time Warp to figure out how I could create an original game that would also include culture and Spanish for my Spanish classes. So, after a GAFE Summit in Boulder last fall, I drove back to the mountains designing a Spanish game in my head.

The Game

I won’t share how long it actually took me to create my first game but it does give me comfort knowing that every time I share my game or another teacher shares it with his or her students the number of minutes spent per student ratio decreases. The other good news is that now there are 100s of games to chose from in all content areas making prep time for teachers much less of an issue. Just go to the site and register. You'll have access to both completed (vetted games) as well as games in beta. 

I actually built the box out of barn door from Leadville with the help of a talented friend and then spent hours creating a storyline with clues around Spain and la Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve). I thoroughly enjoyed looking through my cultural nicknacks to find the perfect tiny bottle of saffron or Metro Map to incorporate into the game. I even used the inside of a old Don Quijote book to use as a clue. The process included many trips to Lowes and WalMart looking for more locks or returning the ones I had “broken”.  I had most of the game complete in my head but was stuck on the last clue until my colleague put the last piece together. Gracias, Silvia.

Salvando La Nochevieja (Saving New Year’s Eve) debuted with my grade 10 Dual Language classes.

The premise of Salvando La Nochevieja is that the students have just finished a semester studying in Spain. They are planning to spend New Year's Eve in Madrid. However, someone has stolen the grapes needed to celebrate properly. The students must find them before the tradition of eating the grapes starts. 

Grade 5 Students

Both classes "escaped" as we call it with less than a minute to spare. They loved it and one student blogged about it here. Next, I played it with my juniors (DP1/Spanish IV) Surprisingly, my larger class of juniors did better with a lower level of Spanish proficiency as they demonstrated stronger teamwork and determination. I also played the game with 4th and 5th graders in our Dual Language school. Two classes escaped and one did not after bickering with each other on what combinations they had already tried. Watching the teamwork (or lack of it) was amazing. It was also excruciating for me to watch and not help. I did fail a few times and provided a few more than the allotted two clues. 

Students as game designers

Minutes from our first game, students asked when we could play again. I laughed and told them THEY would be creating our next games. They did.Their games were related to cultural topics and were quite creative. In one game we had to find our host family in Argentina who had been kidnapped upon our arrival. Another brought us in to save Machu Picchu before the Spaniards arrived. One of my favorite parts of their games was the story they created and shared with us before starting. Here is another student blogging about their BreakOut games. It wasn't all perfect. One group brought in dirt that was really compost (to hide gold of course) and bugs (from the compost) exploded around the room while kids looked for clues. The setting and resetting of the locks was also a challenge in my student created games. I still don't know how, but one group had us find a key but the key didn't match the lock. Hence, my first hasp had to be cut by the maintenance man at school. All in all is was a success. One student borrowed my box for a project for his DP English class.

Sharing Breakout EDU with teachers

iFLT 2016

iFLT 2016

I have now presented Breakout Edu to teachers over the past year, running either my game in Spanish or another from the Game Store in English depending on the audience. Both have been successful in hooking teachers. One teacher trainer was so excited to use the concept with her staff that she drove four hours to my home to borrow my box.

Here is the slide show I used in Chattanooga during iFLT this past summer. Copy it, give proper credit (as most of this information is from others), improve the presentation and please share back in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter. The power of Breakout Edu has been the sharing of ideas, clues, materials and inspiration.  Soon there will be even more WL Breakout EDU games to explore.

A few tips

  • Work with a friend or two to create a game. I should have asked for help much sooner.
  • Start small and keep it simple. My first game is time consuming to both set-up as well as clean-up. My next game will be shorter and less involved. (maybe saying it publicly will help me with this tip)
  • Use the FB page and Pinterest for support and mega ideas.
  • Take time to go over the clues with your students the next day. You will want everyone to experience the creative curricular content and not just the few that ultimately solved that puzzle. Plus, students will want to know how certain puzzles were solved. I never seem to have enough time to reflect properly on the game the same day. 
  • If you chose to create your own box (I suggest buying the awesomely branded Breakout EDU boxes and making your own), error on the smaller and lighter. My box is gorgeous but huge and heavy.
  • Document your students playing and share the experience with parents, administration and the community.

Please share your experiences with Breakout EDU or something similar you are doing with your students. The goal for me is to include more elements of Breakout EDU to both my classes and teacher professional development. 

Making storyboards novel again

Not another storyboard! My students have shared this sentiment with me on more than one occasion. Even after hundreds of requests by me for students to make six boxes, I still find it an awesome activity to provide additional reps for our target structures while students are relatively calm at their tables or on the floor. (Calmness is not how I would typically describe my class.)  I also love this activity because I can individually check for understanding with certain students and pose higher level thinking questions for others while they are drawing. Although not crucial for language acquisition, the number of output assessments that result from a student-created storyboard is endless.

A few ideas for making the process of drawing the story novel.

  • paper size, color and design
  • number the boxes by 5s. 10s, 1000s or ordinal numbers
  • white boards (grandes y pequeños)
  • cardboard
  • Google slides and other tech tools
  • chalk, paint and new Sharpies

I have yet to say "brush my teeth" en Español

True statement. Although I have been studying Spanish for over 30 years, I have yet to use the verb cepillarse in an authentic context. I suppose I can see someday having to ask to buy a toothbrush if I forget mine while traveling. Maybe it isn't impossible to imagine that someone could ask what I was doing when the phone rang and I'd need to say, brushing my teeth. It just hasn't happened yet. Don't get me wrong, I used to conjugate the heck out of cepillarse with my students. I forced them (in the most creative ways) to tell me when (and where) they brushed their teeth. 

I then realized that if I wanted our students to USE the language I needed to provide them the actual language structures they needed to communicate their messages. Often, these language structures are not present in text books. 

Days of the week, weather, body parts and brushing teeth are not topics elementary nor high school students need at lower levels of proficiency. I was once (not long ago) asked to teach an entire unit on rooms in the house. Although I am encouraged by the rapid growth in the last few years of teachers moving toward teaching with Comprehensible Input methods, I still see blog posts, questions and tweets on how to teach colors and the daily routine. Also, I regularly hear veteran World Language consultants make jokes about word choice but the practice still continues. So, thanks to a new teacher in my district, I thought I'd share a few resources on how to get started teaching words that matter for our students. 

Which words?

Listen to your students

It is a sure bet that one of my elementary students will say look (wanting to show me something) within the first week of class. So, they learn mira. Other common language structures for my little ones include: Can we? and I didn't do it. My high school students require a slightly different vernacular: What are we doing today?, I wasn't here or can you please sign this? 

Use these lists

Super 7 by Señora Rose

Top 200 words in Spanish used by Denver Public Schools

Top 400 words in Spanish by Bryce Hedstrom

Question words are crucial

Buy this dictionary

This dictionary provides a list of the 5, 000 most frequently used words in the language and their level of frequency. This is super helpful as research has shown that the 1, 000 most frequent words account for 75-85% of speech. My elementary school bases much of their entire curriculum on the top 120 words (mostly verbs) spread out over six years.

Note: cepillarse doesn't even make the top 5, 000. 










Novel ways to summarize a novel


Five Fingers

Students trace their hand. They label the fingers: characters, setting, details, details and solution.  Students then read the chapter on their own. Some to took notes under each finger. They then wrote a paragraph summarizing the chapter. Next time I'll have students orally retell the story using their fingers as a guide. 



8 Verbs to Describe

Students worked in pairs to find eight verbs that summarized the chapter. They wrote them on a large piece of paper.  Then, one partner would read the verb/sentence and the other would act out the sentence. Then, they switched. Lastly, I lined the kids up across from their partner with all the papers on one side. The side with the verbs had to pick three verbs and their partner on the other side had to demonstrate the action. Then, the line moved so each student had a new partner. We continued until each student was back to their original spot. 


Five Sheets of Creativity

Each group was given five pieces of paper. They had to creatively illustrate the chapter and then act out the chapter out using their new visuals. 


These examples came from the novel La Calaca Alegre by Carrie Toth



19 ideas for integrating songs into your WL Classroom

I was recently asked how I integrate songs into my Spanish classes. Here is the much longer version of my answer. 

I consider, first, teaching just the chorus or a portion of the song. It’s an authentic resource, which is fantastic, but typically over the head of most of my students without lots of backwards planning. So, choosing just a portion is fine. My 9th graders still sing the chorus to Estrella de Mar (starfish) that I taught them in first grade when they were studying the ocean.

Next, I choose 5-9 structures I want to teach or emphasize. I choose cultural items whenever possible.  

We learn the structures via a story, personalized questions, images, actions, etc. I have students DO something with this language before actually reading or singing the song. Sometimes I run the lyrics through a world cloud app and have students predict the meaning of the song. Other times I simply have students identify and circle the target structures on their written copy of the song. Either way, students know which words and cultural topics are important in each song.

Below is a list of activities I use when teaching songs. I do not do each of these with every song . My students and I prefer variety. One thing that never changes is the focus on NEW vocabulary and grammar structures present in the song. I also do not allow students to mosey to the baño during a song. I stress the importance of DOUBLE input (reading and listening) so going to the bathroom is strongly discouraged.

  • Listen to the song and students raise their hand/elbow/finger or show jazz hands when they hear the target structure. If they have cards with the new vocab, they raise the actual word when they hear that word. I usually don’t have the video on for this part as it’s hard to read when you can watch famous singers dancing on the screen. I just want them to follow along at this point.
  • Listen to the song and students sing or act out the target structures as they follow along.
  • Listen to the song and draw vocabulary or culture from the song. Another day, using their drawings, they listen and point to where in the song a certain word or cultural concepts appears. 
  • Students fill out a cloze activity sheet while listening. We have purchased many from Zach Jones. If I do create my own, I make multiple cloze versions so we can repeat the activity. I challenge students to make their own versions of a cloze sheet and share it with a friend.  Easy to share the Google Docs.
  • Divide the song up into 4 or 5 lines and give each portion to a pair, a table, a group, etc.

                    Each group...    (pick one or let them choose)    

  • Videos themselves on their phone or my iPad singing their part. 
  • Writes the lyrics of their portion on (huge, tiny or colored) paper.
  • Draws their portion of the song and sings it 4 times.
  • Creates actions to their part to teach to the class.
  • Reads and sings their portion 7 times.

                  Then, the class listens again and each group highlights their section above.

  • The class makes two lines so that each student has a partner. Line A reads/sings one part of the song and then Line B sings another part. After a few lines, I have one person move down from Line A so each student has a new partner.
  • The Voice or some competition between groups of students.  Whomever sings w/ more emotion wins. Prizes to the winners if you are keen on giving prizes. Today winners received ACTFL shopping bags for their amazing performance. 
  • The class makes a huge circle. Each students reads or sings along while walking slowly in the circle. Seems to take the pressure off while kids have to focus on reading and walking at the same time.  
  • Show the music video. I use a version with the lyrics on the screen if possible. Good for karaoke, too.
  • Duets. Class is divided into teams of two. Each team stands-up or stands on a chair, sharing one microphone/pencil while singing the song.  Very dramatic is the key to this one.
  • Two truths and one lie.  Student reads/sings lines from a song and asks class/partner if they are true or false and class/partner responds.
  • If you have lots of props, have students sing to the props.  Or, the props can sing. This is fun once a year and is perfect for shy kids.
  • Students create a music video for a portion of the song. They add images and text to the words to the song.  This forces them to listen over and over again to get it just right. Google presentations works well for this.
  • While listening to a song with lots of culture, students search Google to find high quality images of the cultural context. They then draw something similar on their song sheet. I play the target song while they are searching.
  • Students use the new vocabulary from the song to either write a new song or create an original story. This shows me they have (or have not) truly acquired the new structures.
  • A new idea for me is to have students tweet or blog just a portion of the song that resonates with them. They use SoundCloud or Audioboo to record and then embed the recording into their blog. They are careful to credit the artist when publishing to their blog.
  • Students buy songs in iTunes and/or make YouTube or Spotify playlists of our class songs so they can practice at home. I also have a list of our current songs w/ links on our class website.
  • Remix. Once we have a pile of songs under our belt, I have kids remix them and create their own songs in small groups. They love it.
  • One of my favorites, since I often use storytelling in my class to teach vocabulary and grammar, is to add lines from songs to our stories.  The more recycling of this compelling input the better.  For example, when Ben saw the girl, she yelled: “dime que no” (tell me it's not true),  “mientes” (you lie)  or  “las olas me hablan de tí”(the waves remind me of you).  It's super fun and we are using the language in context. I either have the music cued up and ready to go, have a student pull it up on her phone quickly or have the entire class sing the line.

Hope this gave you something new to add to your music tool belt.  Please add (via a comment) what you do with songs. I’ve found it easy to find songs but more challenging to create varied activities so that students acquire the language to use for future communication.

Drawings from Latinoamerica by Calle 13

Drawings from Latinoamerica by Calle 13



Tech Integration: "I know it when I see it."

cass teaching class.jpg

cass teaching class.jpg


What does technology integration look like in your classroom?

This is the question posed to us in Course 4. I'm attempting to answer it with an example from my class.

A few years ago I had a 5th grade student, Cass, who wanted to teach others Spanish. Her level of Spanish was amazing and I suggested she teach an online mini course, not having any idea what that could really look like. Cass decided to give it a go and created a Google form seeking potential students and/or classes. I sent out her form via Twitter to spread the word. When someone responded she instantly shared the news with me.

cas email
cas email

A Spanish teacher in Florida wanted her to teach her 6th graders.  Cass composed an email to the teacher in Florida. She cc'd me in on the conversation but the letter came from her. They chose a date. The Florida teacher then sent Cass the material she wanted her to "cover".  Feeling a bit overwhelmed, Cass shared with me the list of 40 plus words present in the traditional end-of-chapter pages.   I was sad, yet not surprised, this teacher was still using such a traditional textbook/approach, but that's another post.  Cass and I decided 40 words weren't practical for one lesson and chose six important verbs from the list.

Cass prepared her lesson. She asked for the names of a few students in the actual class and learned that the class would be visiting the Dali Museum in the near future. She created a lesson that integrated the students in Florida and the new vocabulary with an imaginary story of the theft of an important piece of art at the Dali Museum. She created flashcards with images to use in her lesson. She practiced in front of our class and received valuable feedback from her classmates.


She also came to my 1st grade class and practiced the lesson in front of a bunch of eager 6-year-olds. We then Skyped a friend of mine in Costa Rica who was learning Spanish so she could practice the lesson once more over Skype.

The big day arrived. Cass was ready and excited. I was a little nervous.

cass ready for teaching florida kids.jpg
cass ready for teaching florida kids.jpg

The lesson started fabulously but almost immediately the video feed in Florida went out and Cass couldn't see the class.  She could hear them but she couldn't see them. Fortunately, they could still see and hear her so the lesson continued.  She was slightly rattled but continued like a pro. I would not have remained so poised. Reminds me of last night's episode of The Voice where the contestant continued singing after her mic went out. Cassidy finished her lesson in about 25 minutes and we were both thrilled. The teacher thanked her and then wanted her students to thank her as well. We quickly created an Edmodo group for an easy location to continue the conversation. Each student in Florida wrote a post to Cass thanking her and sharing their new learning.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 10.36.22 AM
Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 10.36.22 AM

Although it was time for lunch and recess, Cassidy stayed in and personally answered each reply.

This lesson represents for me true integration of technology (or redefinition) according to the SAMR framework.

The funny thing...

My biggest take-away with her lesson had nothing to do with technology. It was when the Florida teacher commented to me that she thought it was quite interesting (I believe she meant interesting in good way) that Cassidy made the lesson personal and chose to teach the vocabulary in the context of a story.

This brings me to the TPACK model of technology integration which has always been a bit complicated for me in the past.  As transformative as the technology can and should be, pedagogy and often content trump the technology for me every time.  Even moving up the SAMR scale won't be truly transformative if content and pedagogy aren't addressed in the learning.

Hopefully Cassidy's lesson inspired another WL teacher to possibly look differently at her pedagogy and content.  Then again, the inspiration would never have happened without the amazing possibilities that the technology affords us today.

Could effective technology integration be like Justice Potter's definition of pornography, "you just know it when you see it" but cannot define it?