Monday, December 15, 2014

Spanish 4B Available to Order!

My Spanish 4B (2nd semester Spanish 4) lesson plan book is at the printer and available to order at this link. I should be able to start shipping the books Friday December 19th. I'm having some website issues at the moment so I don't yet have a link to the 4B vocab list or to a sample lesson from 4B, but it's in exactly the same format as 4A (alternating vocab + skit lessons with culture + grammar lessons.) The two AP themes in 4B are Desafíos mundiales with El Salvador as a focus country, and Belleza y estética with México as a focus country. The vocab is still drawing from a couple of AP vocab lists I use, and the grammar topics covered are adjectives (gender and number, placement, shortened forms, demonstratives and possessives,) future tense, conditional mood, present subjunctive, present and past perfect, and past subjunctive.

Off to Finals Week madness this morning...hope everyone has a good Winter Break!

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to Do Your Speaking Tests in 15 Minutes

If you're like me, it's that time of year (final exams) that you have to figure out some way of testing your students' speaking in Spanish that makes sense and doesn't take up several days of class time. For a few years, I put on a movie and sat in a corner in the back of the room, calling individual students to come sit nervously with me asking a series of questions (which usually involved me speaking way more Spanish than they did...example:  Me:  ¿Cuáles actividades te gusta hacer en tu tiempo libre?  Them: Basquetbol.) Then, I got the idea of giving them a choice of three or so storyboards (drawings from skits we had acted out in class) and having them retell me the story from the pictures while I sat listening, counting their complete sentences, maybe making a note of correctly conjugated verbs, and grading it with a rubric.  Now they were doing ALL the talking in Spanish, and it felt great to hear how much they had learned, kid after kid.

The only problem with that idea was how long it took, because they talked so long. I found myself even cutting some of them off after five or six minutes of speaking just so I could get a few more students done before the bell. So it would take about two and half to three 90-minute blocks to get through a class of 32-ish, which is a lot more class time than I feel I have to spare at the end of the semester with finals, final reviews, and everything else that's going on.

Now I have a new system that works so much better for me. Here are the steps:

1. Set up a Google Voice account. It's easy and free.
2. Take the phone number you receive for Google Voice and make an instruction sheet with it that says:
1. Call Sra. Waltman’s Google Voice: 
2. Leave a message:
a. “Me llamo _______________” (full name)
b. Title of cuento: ____________________
c.  Tell story in Spanish, using at least one full sentence per picture.  More details = higher score
d. “¡Adiós!” + hang up
3. Either make copies of the instruction sheet (you can do this on the back of the storyboard copies) or project it from your laptop onto a screen.
4. Make copies of the storyboards. I do three storyboards, enough copies of each for the entire class, on three different colors of paper so it's easy to sort them into separate piles.
5. Day of the speaking test, as they are freaking out about having to take a speaking test, tell them it's going to be no big deal. They are simply going to tell the story to their partner like they always do in class, but this time record themselves on their phones.
6. Pass out a copy of all three storyboards to all students and give them some time to think about which one they want to tell.
7. Do one "Practice Run" where they tell their chosen story to their partner for one minute while you circulate to supply words they couldn't remember from that story. I don't let them write anything down, but I will tell them how to say things like "marked out" and "cooked him on the grill" (two examples from yesterday's speaking tests.) Switch partners and let the other partner practice.
8. Say, "Okay, partner one, get your phone or borrow someone else's. Ready? Dial!" So they call the Google Voice number and start talking. (I tell them that if my Voicemail cuts them off, that is okay, that just means they talked for three minutes already so that is enough talking.)
9. Tell your Partner 2s to go ahead and dial when their partner is finished. I like to keep the room kind of noisy with talking so that no one gets left out trying to record their speaking test with everyone else listening to them.

And...I'm done! Except for the grading, which I do during plans, breaks, a few after school, etc. over finals week. I don't always listen to every word of every recording. You'll get a really good idea of how well they are speaking within the first 30 seconds - 1 minute. However, a lot of times I do let the whole thing play while I do my filing, end-of semester cleaning out and organizing, etc. in my classroom. I record the scores alphabetically on a rubric and when a class is all filled out, I'm ready to enter it into my gradebook, done. And incidentally, if a kid doesn't say their name and I can't figure out who it is, I text the number to ask. I usually have to do that about once or twice per semester, and the student usually thinks it's pretty funny, we wish each other a good break, and that's that.

If you have a good method for doing your speaking tests or other ideas to add, please share in the comments!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Spanish 4B Should Be Out By Dec 15 (Update)

Just an update on Spanish 4B...I've finished writing everything and am still working on edits from my Spanish editor and then I'll be ready to package the manuscript for my printer! Yea! Another level of Spanish lesson plans done. Spanish 4B will go up for sale at a few days before the printer's estimated delivery date, and I'll announce it here for those of you who are watching for it for your second semester Spanish 4 classes.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fixed link for "Street Food Argentina Hamburger" in Spanish 4A

Hi all, if you are using my Spanish 4A lesson plans this fall and you are pacing about the same as I am, then you are going to need this new link for 4A Lesson 9, La vida contemporánea parte 5, Topic 1:

“Street food Argentina Hamburger”

The link I found this summer is now gone, but like any of the links I provided in the 4A lessons, you can usually find the same video by searching on the title.  Even if you don't find exactly the same one, you can usually find a suitable substitute (but be careful showing un-vetted videos from Youtube in class...if you do, do a little disclaimer speech ("Hey you guys, I haven't screened this video ready to hide your eyes!"  and be ready to stop the video if things get inappropriate.)

Love the above video for class discussion about cultural comparisons between Argentina and the U.S. by the way.  It's short, kind of self-explanatory and strangely fascinating, and you can have a lot of simple Spanish conversation about what is different about this hamburger from our normal burgers.

Okay, back to work!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Having Students Grade Their Own Work

Just got this (glowing) email from Julia Sullivan, a teacher who bought some books from me a few weeks ago, with a question:
Jalen, I just wanted to give you an update on how things are going in my classroom now that I am using your books.  Awesomely!!  The students love it, I love it and things are going great. I feel like finally my students are learning Spanish when for my entire career, more than 30 years, I never got the feeling that they really learned Spanish at all.  I have been looking for something to do differently for years and I really feel that your programs are an answer to my prayers.

As and aside, this year I was given 6 classes and I have almost 190 students total and using your method of letting the students grade their own stuff has saved me so much work.  I would be a wreck right now otherwise even after only 2 weeks of teaching.  I have students every day telling me that Spanish is their favorite class.  And others that say "I am finally going to pass Spanish!"  

If you get a moment, I would like to hear your philosophy on why it is that you let them grade their own stuff.  I think I have an idea but I would like to hear your point of view
Gratefully yours,

First of all, it feels so good to know that my stuff has made life easier for a teacher with a HUNDRED AND NINETY students...! I do know how that feels from a few years ago when I was teaching Spanish 1 and 2, and I taught those levels for eight years. (If you're on the block schedule, that's what your numbers get up to at the lower levels. At the moment, I'm making out like a bandit with my classes at 10, 16, 21, and 26 in the upper levels. Don't hate me, please.)

So, my philosophy on why I let them grade their own stuff. Well, I wouldn't say I "let" them, I make them do it.  Here's why:
- To save myself time.  Lots of time.  A class can grade their own multiple-choice, matching, and fill-in the blanks on a sizable test in about 10 minutes or less. (I of course still grade their essays.)
- Instant feedback for students, which they actually seem to like quite a bit.

I have them grade their own tests, because you can get into trouble having them switch papers and see each other's grades.  (Yes, they do tend to call out how they are doing as they are grading, e.g. "I only missed two!" "A hundred percent so far!" "I bombed it, Ms. Waltman!" etc. But, that's not the same as having your super-smart partner next to you see your test performance without you choosing to share it.)

After the test, I pass out red pens and say, "All pens and pencils on the ground or back in your backpacks. No pens and pencils on top of the desks that are not the red grading pen." Then I make a show of announcing and doing a "pen check" and walk around looking down the rows sideways to see who still has a regular pen or pencil on their desks. There are usually one or two because they are distracted, and I say, "Greg, put your pencil on the floor please," and they go, "Oh..." and do it. Once all that is situated, I read the key aloud as many times as anyone needs to hear it while they grade it. If it's fill in the blank, I announce and/or take questions for partial credit and award it on the spot. Such as, they got the correct I.O. pronoun but it's in the wrong place - half credit.

I have them count up how many they missed and write it at the top, then turn it in for me to grade the essay (if there is one.)  In general, I have found students to be very honest and accurate.  I glance through the tests as I'm putting scores in the gradebook and occasionally find mistakes in the grading and correct it, but I don't worry overmuch about missing something on this. Will the world really come to an end if the kid gets an extra point they didn't earn on a test? Not my Spanish-teaching world, anyway. Chances are, it was an accident, and even if they did it on purpose, for me it's not worth fretting over--if I catch it, I'll fix it, and if I don't, oh well.

I put this practice of having kids grade their own tests together with getting a Teacher's Aide (a student) and having them alphabetize all my papers, and voila: tons of time saved in grading and entering grades in the gradebook.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spanish 4A "La vida contemporánea" Lessons in Action!

We just started my "La vida contemporánea/Argentina" unit in 4A, for which we discussed the definition or description of Contemporary Life in Spanish as well as graphed our ideas. Students first made a simple web of ideas with a partner:
And then we compiled everyone's ideas in a big web on the whiteboard:
My fours are accustomed to skits being the main source of Spanish instruction so this heavy culture-discussion thing in Spanish is a big step for them...a few of them aren't too crazy about it, but I have to say, every one of them did participate and contribute ideas when we were doing the partner-web and the big web on the whiteboard.

Tomorrow they will be on the second skit,  "The Guy Who Didn't Take the Class Seriously" (with AP vocab "School and Office,") so those few who were worn out by having to talk about modern life in Spanish for 40 minutes will get a fun, familiar break and hopefully not abandon ship on me. I'm liking it!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Giving Classroom Directions in Spanish?

I just got this email from my friend Liz:
Hi Jalen!  I have purchased your new books for level 1 and they look great.  

Hey, I was wondering if you would please describe for me your use of English in the classroom.  It's hard to give directions and such in Spanish for new beginners.  I'm okay with using English, but I'd just like to know what you do.


My response:
Hi Liz!  In levels 1 and 2 I did tend to use a lot of English directions.  Well, all English directions pretty much.  I let the daily skit, the Q&A afterwards, and the page of reading be the bulk of my target language input.  I'm teaching with a colleague now (Carrie) who uses almost exclusively Spanish in levels 1 and 2 and not just with my stories but somehow enforces them asking to go to the bathroom, everything, in Spanish.  This fall she moved classrooms and her door will be facing mine 5 feet away so I plan to spy and learn all her secrets.  (Or maybe I can get her to write a guest blog for me or something.)  Anyway, I still give some directions in English in levels 3, PreAP3, 4, and to be honest AP as well, because maybe I'm lazy or just not skilled in this area or I want to just hurry up and say, "hold up the grammar worksheet so I can see it when I look down your row and check off that you did it" and be done with it.  I will say, the Spanish directions I do give work best when they are repetitive things we always do every day, because then after about 4 class periods or so they know what I’m asking with no explanation.  And, it is my goal to increase my own use of Spanish every year and figure out all the tricks for how to make that work without whole-class-revolt.

I will also say that I have always been happy with how much Spanish my students were learning at levels 1 & 2, and that the main input of skits, questions about the skit, and readings in Spanish is key for language acquisition at those levels; directions in Spanish is probably is not key.  In my opinion.

Hope this helps!


Just to add a note for the upper levels:  in levels 3, PreAP3, and 4, I do ever-increasing amounts of Spanish class discussion in additions to the skits and readings, and in AP the instruction is reading and listening to authentic sources combined with class discussion in Spanish, so maybe this is how I get away with giving directions in English more than I probably should.

Hopefully more later this Fall on how my colleague Carrie maintains so much Spanish in 1 and 2...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Spanish 4A Will Be Out This Week

Update on all the updates...Jalen Waltman's Spanish 4A 2014 lesson plan book is going to be up for sale on my website at no later than Tuesday night August 5th.  I'm taking the enormous-looking manuscript to my printer tomorrow and should have some books ready to ship by Friday.  I don't know how many pages it is since the pages aren't numbered (only tagged by Lesson they go with) but it looks like it's as thick as my level 3 stuff, which, if you have those books, you know what I mean.  I will try to make 4A sample lessons available to download here from my blog tomorrow night.

Here was my July.  I finished 4A early July and then immediately started 4B; wrote half of 4B, which didn't really go any faster than 4A (as I had hoped,) so about two weeks ago I stopped working on 4B to get a start on AP A, so that I can at least start off this Fall with good lesson plans ready for all my preps.  AP A is about a third done, so it's not ready to go with 4A, and 4A is too big anyway to combine anything with it.  AP is probably going to be one book for both semesters, of about 250 pages I think.

(If you teach AP Spanish Language and Culture and were waiting with baited breath for me to publish at least the A semester, let me know and I'll keep you posted on the progress of my AP stuff.)

I'm ***so excited*** about how 4A turned out.  When I wrote level 3 I felt I'd done my best work yet, that I'd matured as a lesson designer and that I'd probably maxxed out.  Now I'm feeling that level 4 is my new "masterpiece," and it feels good to be able to cap off my entire series with something I feel proud of.  I just hope those of you who will be teaching through it with me this Fall will feel the same way!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Update on Jalen's Spanish 4 and AP Lesson Plan Books

Um, okay.  It's July 1st and I just finished writing Lesson 29 (out of 30, you know that's how I roll...) for Spanish 4A.  I have been working at my computer the entire month of June 6-8 hours a day (sometimes more) with only three or four days off from writing, and all I have to show for it is Spanish 4A (almost...just gotta write the final exam/Lesson 30.)  NOT Spanish 4B, and certainly not AP Spanish A or B to go with it.

It's taking way longer than I delusionally thought in my head, mostly because I am doing so much cultural research in order to make the culture/AP theme lessons really, really good.  I don't like lists of surface facts about culture; in fact, I hate them and I do not have the skill to teach them well in a classroom situation.  I can't stand the glazed-over stares of boredom.  So I'm digging down researching until the "fact" I'm going to talk about in class becomes utterly fascinating to me (once it's fascinating to me, I know I can pull it off in class as well,) trying to find the very best authentic resources online to showcase the cultural product, practice, and/or perspective, framing it within one of the AP themes, and making materials that require critical thinking and engagement on the students' parts.

It's a LOT of work.

But...I'm really happy with the way 4A is turning out.  I'm looking forward to teaching with it this Fall.

So, more soon as I continue on this project.  All I can say for sure at this point is that first semester Spanish 4A will be up for sale in time for school to start (by August 1st.) Whether I'll have 4B ready to go with it or not, and the status of my AP Spanish lessons, I'm not sure about right now. If worse comes to worst, I'll have to continue on 4B into the school year and publish it some time this Fall. I can't imagine that happening later than the end of October or so, but definitely in time for Spring. Just worse case scenario. I am still hoping to finish 4B by the time I report back to work in August (August 14th.)

(Incidentally, this is EXACTLY what happened two summers ago when I wrote level 3.  3A took all of June and most of July, and then I sped up and wrote 3B in about three weeks, last week of July and the first two weeks of August.  I know this from looking at the "date modified" on those files. Those level 3 books are equal size and quality, so I'm not sure why the second book goes faster, but it does.)

Okay, back to work now...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jalen's Spanish 4 and AP Spanish Lesson Plans...Actually In Progress!

I know some of you are wondering if I will ever publish anything for Spanish 4 and/or AP.  Over the past two years I have been wondering that myself.  Well, you don't know until you know, or at least I don't know until I know, and now I know. :-)

4A is now available in both ebook and print on Amazon NOW! You can download the word documents to go with the book at my TPT store as well.

4B is also now available on Amazon with word docs available for download on TPT.

AP Spanish Unit 1 on Teachers Pay Teachers is ALSO available NOW! This is completely different from the culture units in my Spanish 4 plans, and can be used in conjunction with those books, separately, or however you see fit. This product is my Unit 1 for my own AP Spanish Language and Culture Class.
END OF UPDATES!!! Now back to the original post...]

I'm designing and writing a set of lesson plan books that can be used for Spanish 4 and AP as separate preps that potentially follow one another (as in my situation--some students in my program will take Spanish 4 as juniors and then AP Spanish Language and Culture as seniors,) OR can be used for a combined Spanish 4/AP prep, OR for just Spanish 4, OR for just AP.  I don't know why it took me so long to figure out that this is how to do it, but at least now I know what I'm writing exactly.

Both levels are centered around the AP themes, so that if I have juniors in Spanish 4 that take AP their senior year, they are spending their Spanish 4 time wisely.  I can't do those themes exactly the same way in both levels though (or else those students will have repeat lessons,) so I'm writing different materials to go with the themes at each level. Also, my draft version of Spanish 4 stuff will only cover 2 themes per semester (4 total) while AP needs to cover 3 themes per semester in order to touch on all 6.

My draft Spanish 4 materials-in-progress also have a "focus country" for each of the 4 themes.  (I might try to imbed a focus country into the AP themes this summer as well, but right now they aren't country-specific.)  In Spanish 4 I still plan to tell stories that will teach AP vocab, but only every other block, with the next block reserved for AP-style all-Spanish discussion topics pertaining to culture, current events, authentic resource readings, videos, writing, etc. That is my plan right now.  You of course will be able to use any and or all of what is in the lesson plan books for whichever level(s) you teach, be they 4, AP, or a combo--stories, culture topics, discussion, whatever you want.  I'll put it in the books in the order and format I am using it for my two separate preps, but you can feel free to improvise as desired.

I am writing my lesson materials as I teach this semester with an eye to exactly what activities work best for me and my students in terms of increasing proficiency and keeping the class in Spanish as much as humanly possible, and I mean not just me doing all the talking, but getting them to speak Spanish as much as possible on a wide variety of topics and in spontaneous-ish conversation. I am weeding out things that don't work for me, like assigning vocab lists to memorize and then doing vocab quizzes in AP, and replacing it with what does work. (With vocab, if I don't teach it in some sort of usable context like a story or a guided conversation, we are just wasting class time even taking the quiz.  I finally admitted this to myself last week, tossed out the quizzes, and started writing guided conversation questions to teach and practice AP vocab.  More work for me up front, but once they are all written, I know my students will know and be able to use "a menos que" in speaking and writing rather than having memorized it for a quiz and then totally forgotten it.)

Spanish 4 and AP speaking all Spanish, talking about culture, and steadily increasing their proficiency--that's my dream, anyway, and I think I see it on the horizon. My plan is to have something for 4/AP ready to go and up for sale around the first week of July.  (I know I've said this before and it means end of July. But my intention is to NOT have to spend my entire summer on the project, so we shall see if I meet my goal.)

And then...there are no more levels of Spanish for me to write.  They will all be written, they flow perfectly one to the next, build proficiency over time, and hopefully earn good AP scores.  That would be my teaching, planning, writing, and publishing Nirvana.  I can start using my summers to relax. <smile>

UPDATE: Follow my author page on Amazon for all my latest publications...level 4 will be there soon, with a possible AP supplement later this year (2018.)

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: AP UNIT 2 Las familias y las comunidades is up for sale as of tonight! 1/9/20

Note: this post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you for using them. ;-)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gesturing the Vocab and Homework in First Year

I'm getting questions on gesturing and first year homework that I want to address for all interested.  

I use gestures every day for vocab introduction/retention before the story and we gesture everything on the vocab list for the lesson.  I do it because I've experimented both ways and for me their long-term vocab retention is so much better with gestures that I just can't justify skipping them.  In my experience, the gestures don't have to be "good" - there just has to be a motion that goes with each word or phrase of the day.  Even the process of thinking up gestures (get the kids to help you if you are stuck) means they are thinking about what the words mean, and every second you can get their brain on that task helps.

Also, you don't have to have different gestures for every single word or phrase over time. Thumbs up or down in my class can mean a lot of things; I just don't use it for two things on the same day.

One friend asked me specifically if it's possible to gesture the vocab in certain lessons, like Spanish 1A L13.  Here's what I would do with the story vocab chunks in Lesson 13 of 1A:

Ella escribe (motion writing or typing) un anuncio personal (hold up fingers to make shape of a little box--the "anuncio")
Me gustan los deportes (thumbs up, then swing a bat or shoot a basketball, or whatever sport they like)
No me gusta el ajedrez (thumbs down, then thoughtfully move a chess piece on your desk)
¿Cómo eres?/¿Cómo es…? (point at someone and then shrug and hold your hands up like you are wondering what they are like, and for Como es, they can also point at me and shrug, wondering what I'm like)
Quiero conocerte mañana a la una (hands clasped like you're begging (that is how I always do "quiero"), shake hands with imaginary person (that is how I always do conocer), point forward to "mañana", then hold up one finger for 1:00 or point at the clock)

Don't forget to do "eyes closed" gesturing, one time through each word or phrase, at the end of the short practice. I would say I practice each phrase 4-5 times, more if they are slow/lethargic/distracted, before eyes-closed assessment. But everyone has to do the gestures during practice so I know if they know what I'm saying, and I make it obvious I'm looking all around the room to see if everyone knows the words.  If someone stops gesturing, I ask (with a smile,) "Brian, I just need to make sure--do you know what 'resentidas' means?" If he can tell me, I say, "Good!" If he can't, I say, "Okay, it means 'resentful,' and we're folding our arms like we're mad..." For me, that fixes it at least that day. I sometimes have to ask the same kid the next day, but pretty soon they realize all they have to do to keep me off their back is do the gesture with everybody else.

Quick story on this topic: I had a kid in PreAP Spanish 3 who had to leave the room for a couple of minutes last week right after writing down the vocab on his vocab list. (BTW, I normally don't allow anyone to leave at that point if I can help it.) While he was gone we did the gesture practice for what he'd written down. He came back just as we were doing eyes closed gesturing. He had zero idea what I was saying or what the gestures were, so he kept his eyes open and was visibly shocked that everyone understood and was doing everything I said like little robots. When everybody else opened their eyes, I said, "Sean, that was weird how they knew all that complicated Spanish I was saying, wasn't it?" He said, "Yeah!" with a big grin. I told the class they just don't realize how cool it is that they can motion everything I say unless they have to leave like that and come back in a couple of minutes later and witness it.

Okay, homework. Homework in first and second year for us usually is grammar worksheets and translating stories, and I would give it once or twice a week on the A/B 90-minute block schedule.  I think Alexis has first year students take readings home and translate them to their parents, then parents sign at the bottom that they did it.  She has some cheating on this of course, but she also gets rave reviews from parents about how much their kids are learning and can demonstrate.

Hope this helps!

Announcing My Online, On-Demand Spanish 1 Course!

Click ↑ to go to my new YouTube Channel! It's here! I'm teaching my "Jalen Waltman"  standards-based high school Spanish 1...