Sunday, December 27, 2015

7 Classroom Management Mistakes - #5 Not Having a Well-Prepared Lesson

Okay, I hate it that this particular thing affects my classroom management so much, because fixing it is a lot of work, but this is:

Mistake #5 - Not Having a Well-Prepared Lesson.

It never fails. When I'm bumbling around at the front of the room trying to figure out what I'm doing because I don't have a well-planned lesson, my class senses a weakness in the Force, and things start going awry. They get louder and more talkative, less willing to do what I ask, more whiny, more rowdy and restless.

Or, maybe I have part of the lesson well-planned, but then there's dead time in the middle or at the end, and it takes me a few minutes to regroup and transition to something else. Or, I never do really figure out what I'm transitioning to, and it's just simply too late. They've already gone haywire.

So how do you make sure you don't get caught fumbling around trying to figure out what you're doing? Different teachers do this different ways. Some people have ready-made filler activities and games they whip out at the last minute. Me, I wrote 4 levels of lesson plan books because I hate not knowing what I'm doing and where this is all going so much. For me, a well-prepared skit lesson with smooth transitions basically runs like this:

1. A warm-up/review of the material from the last class.
2. Read something that reinforces the vocab and grammar from last class.
3. Conversation in Spanish about a question of the day or some sort of given topic, preferably something that also reinforces the vocab they have been learning. At the beginning levels, this would obviously be very scripted and guided.
4. Introduction of new vocab/vocab phrases.
5. Skit.
6. Q&A about the skit, me asking questions and them answering either as a group or getting called on one by one (if only a few are answering out loud as a group.)
7. 4-minute break.
8. Grammar, either intro of new grammar topic or a continuing practice of one that we've been working on.
9. Go over homework/new homework assigned.
10. Telenovela (right now, I'm showing Un gancho al corazón in level 3 and Al diablo con los guapos in level 4. We're all very addicted to these two shows. : - ))

Now, part of what makes me well-prepared when I run this lesson is that I do it almost every day, exactly in the same order. So my students are accustomed to this routine and so am I, and it runs pretty much like clockwork.

(For my Spanish 4/AP culture lessons, substitute the culture topic/reading/writing/conversation for #4, 5, and 6 above.)

You may need to experiment with your own lesson sequencing and content to find your sweet spot in terms of lesson planning, and you may also hate doing the same routine and need to shake it up more. I don't shake much, and that works well for me.

Another great source of lesson planning ideas is Martina Bex's awesome blog. She has a TON of resources, ideas, lessons, units, and activities there, so check her out!

What ideas do you have for last-minute activities that always go well in class? Share in the comments below!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

7 Classroom Management Mistakes - #4 Not Telling Them Why

The original Pandilla de ciclistas - Trevor, Austin, and Joe.

If you're getting into a lot of arguments and having a great deal of whining in your classes, it might be because of:

Mistake #4 - Not Telling Students Why.

Why? Because they want and need to know "why" in order to have buy in.

I try to tell them "why" before they even start whining and asking me about it. In fact, nowadays I try to attach a "why" onto just about everything I tell them to do. "I need you guys to record yourselves speaking so I can tell how much Spanish I've taught you this semester." "You have to read and reply to this email so I can see if you would be able to read a native speaker's email and reply to it in Spanish if you had to." "Don't play on your phone right now so you can focus on helping your partner if they need it while they are telling the story." "Read the page with your eyes along with your partner who's reading aloud so you can learn new words, too."

The generation we're teaching right now is the "why" generation. They don't like to waste their time, and if you think about it, neither do you. So "why do we have to do this," while seeming to be a really rude question that hurts my feelings sometimes, is also just human nature. I might not have felt free to ask my teachers that question back in the 80's when I was in high school, but that doesn't mean I didn't think it at times. And it doesn't mean that the empowered-to-speak-their-minds students we are teaching right now are really trying to be rude and hurtful. They just need to know why. So tell them.

I would encourage you to start saying why more, before you're even asked, and see if you don't have fewer arguments and whines in class. And when you DO get asked "why do we have to do this?" react with zero heightened emotion or anger and simply tell them why. I've said this before, but if you find yourself (as I have) scrambling for an answer to "why," you might reconsider the activity at hand. Maybe not right then in front of your class (although I have changed course in the middle of class before) but at least think about it later. I should be able to easily articulate why I'm having them do a certain task, if I have clear objectives for their learning.

So that's it, saying why. A simple thing that in my experience yields big results in classroom management!

Available in paperback - my entire second semester Spanish 1 lessons with masters ready-to-copy for your class!

Note: this post contains an affiliate link. If you use the link and purchase something, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. :)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

7 Classroom Management Mistakes - #3 Not Having a Seating Chart

Now I know teachers who swear by not having seating charts, but the few times I've dipped my toe in those shark waters, I deeply regretted it. Therefore, in my experience, this is:

Mistake #3 - Not Having a Seating Chart.

I know that making seating charts is a lot of work, and it's a hassle to enforce them. But the difference between managing a class in which I have chosen everyone's seat up front and managing a class where they sit wherever they want to is night and day. Dark and Light. Demons and Angels. Hell and Heaven, or as close to classroom management "heaven" as I can get anyway.

If you let them sit wherever they want, you inevitably have to move some talkative, off-task students around anyway, and when you do that you have to argue and listen to whining and get the eye-rolls and sullen behavior just like you do sometimes when enforcing your seating chart. So just front load that eye-rolling session with a seating chart that's ready to go the first day of class. You'll get your turf established right away, and it's much harder for them to fight against it later since your class was clearly established like that, from the get-go.

Also, talk about the seating chart in your rules and expectations on your syllabus, or if you don't like having a lot of written rules (some teachers don't,) at least talk about it while you're going over the syllabus the first day of class. I say things like, "I organize my classroom with a seating chart that I design. I do this because [telling them why up front, because they are the "WHY" generation and that's how they get a little more buy-in,] I want to choose your partners rather than having you just sit by your friends, and leave some kids out. That way everyone meets new people, works with different people throughout the year, and my class runs smoother so I can teach you more Spanish. I expect you to sit in your assigned seat, without arguing or complaining about it, when the bell rings. If you have a problem with your seat, like you can't see the board or something, talk to me about it after class."

Here are my tips for creating good seating charts:

1. Space out the boys. You can do this whether you know the students or not. In Spanish, you'll get some really boy-heavy classes at times, so it's not an exact science, but in general, you want to make your grids boy-girl-boy-girl. I try not to have two boys next to one another either side-to-side or front-to-back.

2. Rowdy boys are in front. I call these the "power seats." Meaning, I have a little more (illusory) power over a loud, rambunctious kid if he's within a few feet of me. I can talk with him, joke with him, and ask him to settle down when needed, sometimes without most of the class even noticing that he and I have an exchange going. He naturally gets more attention from me, which is sometimes all that kid is looking for in the first place.

3. Quiet girls form a padding around rowdy boys. Sorry, quiet girls. Actually, sometimes they really enjoy this, because being partners with an outgoing, energetic guy brings her out of her shell a little, gets her laughing. Or, sometimes he drives her nuts. If I see that, I'll discreetly change that arrangement with my next seating chart.

I make new seating charts at the start of the semester, and I change them mid-semester. So that's four charts per class per year. Changing at mid-semester quells some of the complaining about having a seating chart, so to me, it's worth the extra work.

Also, you will have many students who really like having assigned seats, having a seat that is always theirs in my class that others can't just take whenever they want to, forming clumps of "cool" kids in certain areas of the room while the "outcasts" sit in the front, back, or whatever areas aren't "cool."

To sum up, I'd say making and enforcing seating charts is one of the top priorities in my own classroom management practice. It makes a world of difference for me, but I'd be curious to know what others think, so comment below with your thoughts!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

7 Classroom Management Mistakes - #2 Arbitrary Rules

Mistake #2 - Making Arbitrary Rules

The generation of students we're teaching right now is smart. And opinionated. And vocal about it. So when you decide what your official classroom rules are going to be, I recommend that you make absolutely sure you have a good reason for each one, a reason that you can defend to the death if need be and consistently enforce. Why? Because making rules that seem to have no logical reason behind them in the eyes of your students is an invitation for breaking them and getting into arguments in class. They will have a hard time buying into keeping rules that they don't view as necessary. It's simply human nature, and we teachers do it too with our administration, if we're being honest.

Examples of possibly-arbitrary rules that may be hard to defend and enforce:

1. No food or drink. I used to die on this hill, but that was before 2004ish, when there was a generation shift. Nowdays refusing to allow kids to have food and/or drinks in class is cause for all-out warfare in their eyes. In 2009, when I went back to the classroom (after working as our district's ELL coordinator for 4 years) I actually got a parent complaint that I hadn't allowed her son to drink his breakfast smoothie in class. I saw the writing on the wall. Yes, food and drink can be distracting. Yes, it spills and gets on desks. Yes, it creates trash bits on your floor. But to me, it's not worth arguing about anymore.

2. No gum. It's hard to notice that kids have gum, and therefore, you're always going to be fighting and fighting this battle. And you'll get accused of singling out and making some kids spit their gum out when others are chewing it too. And students see it as completely arbitrary, even if you argue until you're blue in the face that chewing gum hinders their ability to speak the target language, because actually, it really doesn't. You may not speak very clearly, but you technically can talk while you have gum in your mouth.

3. No cellphones in sight. Besides being completely impossible to enforce (it's like playing whack-a-mole,) this rule wears me out due to the arguing and haranguing I feel I have to do in order to have some semblance of control over whether their cell phone is "in sight" or not.

4. No talking. The generation we're teaching right now is very verbal. You'll have kids in class that literally talk themselves through just about everything they do, because that's how they process. In my class, there's plenty of talking at various points during class. I talk to them and they talk to me, and we all talk together. But I can get them to focus and quiet down when it's necessary for learning because I'm not constantly squelching ALL talking.

5. No bathroom breaks/limiting bathroom breaks. This is another one that can get you into trouble with parents, and keeping up with limited (paper) bathroom passes and the like is just not a part-time job I'm willing to take on. So I technically allow unlimited bathroom breaks. But if a kid asks me in the middle of some part of the lesson, I ask them to wait until we're done reading, writing the essay, acting out the skit, or whatever part of the lesson we are doing--unless it's an emergency, and I make sure it's not before denying the bathroom visit. That sends the message that I expect them to participate in the lesson first, but that I understand the need to be able to go to the bathroom when necessary. I honestly don't have that many students ask during the lesson, because of how I handle it. I do also give a 4-minute classroom break in the middle of my 90-minute block, and at that time I allow five students max out of the room at a time for bathroom or water. Most students wait until then to ask, and it seems to work out really well. (Plus they get that all-important brain break, so that when we reconvene I can get another "prime time" of about 10 minutes or so of new learning. See David Sousa for a full explanation of the primacy-recency effect and prime learning times.)

Those are just a few examples. I do have a couple of arbitrary rules, but they are ones that I am willing to defend and argue about. Mine are:

1. No sitting on top of desks. Once the bell rings, if anyone was sitting on top of a desk, they have to sit down in their desks. I don't know why, but I find this rule (which you could argue is kind of arbitrary) fairly argument-free in class.

2. No trash on the floor. This one is arbitrary and I admit it the first day of class when we go over my syllabus. I tell them, "You know how every teacher has their 'things,' well, this is my thing. It drives me crazy to have a messy floor because I live in this room all day and I don't like living in a trash heap." My floor isn't always spotless, but having this rule in the syllabus and talking about it does reduce the amount of trash left behind throughout the year, and it makes me feel less like a horrible nag when I ask a kid to pick up the little bits of trash around his or her desk before they leave.

So I'm not saying you can't have some arbitrary rules, but I would recommend keeping them to a minimum and thinking them completely through before you decide to put them out there. If you don't consistently enforce your rules, your students won't take you as seriously, so I personally avoid having rules that I know will be hard for me to enforce.

So that's it! Happy rules-making.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

7 Classroom Management Mistakes - #1 Not Owning the Room

I've gotten a lot of requests for my classroom management techniques and suggestions, so I'm starting a series on the topic. These "mistakes" are all just my opinions, based on my own constant trial and error in managing classrooms, so please take them with a grain of salt, and feel free to share any ideas of your own in the comments.

Mistake #1 - Not owning the room

Have you ever noticed that some teachers can control a rowdy classroom simply by walking into it? And that others can't seem to make themselves heard over the din, no matter what they do? Some teachers have "presence" in a classroom, and their students magically listen and obey. I call it owning the room.

It takes a little practice, and it definitely gets easier with years of experience, but here are my best tips for how to own your classroom. (And it's never too late to reinvent yourself and start using these suggestions. I've reinvented myself multiple times in the same school year. It's better than slogging through a horrible year just telling yourself you'll do everything differently next fall, because if nothing else, you gain practice.)

1. Dress up. Go for casual business attire, and avoid slouchy, out-of-style clothes and ugly-but-comfortable shoes. (Right now I am into Creation L and White House Black Market for clothes ideas and Aerosoles for shoes, if you're in need of a visual or two. If you're a guy, try Land's End (if you want to wear ties) or Carbon 2 Cobalt (no ties) for in-style ideas and looks.)

2. Greet students as they come in your door by name. "Hola, Jared. Hola, Alex. ¿Cómo están?"

3. Watch your posture - stand up straight; try not to pace around nervously. Walk around the room slowly, with a purpose.

4. Make eye contact with students, and keep your expression friendly but purposeful.

5. Speak up. Use good Teacher Voice. Teacher Voice = loud enough to be heard over the loudest student, but not screeching or high pitched. Try to lower your tone, speak from deeper in your chest. Breathe. When you need students to quiet down, say so loudly and confidently. Some phrases I use: "Okay, quiet down please." "Okay, I'm talking now." "Stop talking for a minute." Experiment until you find the phrases that you feel you can pull off in class. Don't start giving instruction or directions until everyone is listening. Otherwise, they learn that they can just keep talking over you and you don't care.

6. Give crystal-clear directions as if you've done this a million times and you know exactly how you want things to be. Even if you're totally winging it and/or it's the first time through an experimental lesson.

7. Address behavior on the spot, as soon as you notice it and have confirmed in your mind that it really is what you think it is. ("Ashley, don't play on your phone right now please. I need you to listen to this.") But, warning--avoid griping at a kid if you aren't absolutely sure they are doing something wrong (example: you are about to tell a kid to stop talking to their neighbor, but then you notice they are helping the other kid get the vocab written down.) If you do call out a behavior (like, "Caleb, don't talk to Ryan right now please,") and the student says "I was just telling him the vocab for last class," make sure you say, "Oh, sorry. Thanks for helping Ryan then." Students these days are very sensitive and they'll hold it against you big time if you "yell" at them (that's what they call it) when they perceive themselves as innocent.

Owning the room is so crucial that if you do it well, you can get away with a LOT of other classroom management faux pas during any given class. Like I said, practice and experience make perfect, so don't be afraid to reinvent yourself right now. You don't have to make an announcement about it, just start doing it and note the differences in student behavior.

And please share any thoughts or ideas you might have in the comments below! I love to read comments.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Grammar Resources I Like and Use

I just wanted to share a list of the Grammar workbooks I like and use. I'm not big on the grammar exercises in most textbooks and their ancillary materials (and unfortunately, Exprésate's are unusually difficult to work with in class,) so I use these workbooks (available on as resources:

·       McGraw Hill Practice Makes Perfect Spanish Verb Tenses – Dorothy Devney Richmond
·       McGraw Hill Practice Makes Perfect Complete Spanish Grammar – Gilda Nissenberg
·       Barron’s Spanish Verb Workbook – Frank H. Nuessel

I pick and choose from among the activities in these books and cobble together my own grammar worksheets (literally cutting and taping things together.) I talk about the grammar point and take notes on the grammar worksheets under a document camera while my class copies what I write and/or does some of the exercises by themselves for a few minutes and then we check the answers under the document camera. Nothing overly fancy. For homework, I normally write my own, making it as basic as possible (fill in the blank with a conjugated verb, usually.)

I keep my grammar lesson as the final 15 minutes or so of a 90-minute block, with the main focus of the block being the vocab gesturing and skit.

This works well for me, but please comment and share your own grammar teaching ideas below!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What To Do When the Novelty and Fun of Doing Skits Wears Off in Class

Got a question this past week about pacing and keeping skits exciting in class:

Hola Jalen.

I purchased your lesson plans for my 8th grade Spanish 1 class.  I have decided to solely use TPRS this year with your lesson plans.  My students like the stories so far and are acquiring the language quickly.  We have only done two stories at this point.
My questions are:

1.  Do you get through all 27 stories by the end of the year?  I wonder if I'm going too fast.  I see my students daily for 40 minutes.  This is the 3rd week of school.

2.  After only acting two stories, the novelty seems to be wearing off a little bit.  I am trying to do other activities in addition to the ones that you have in your plans.  Since I'm new at circling and TPRS, I'm trying to improve so that my lessons aren't boring even though they're repetitive.  Do you have any suggestions for me?

Thank you in advance for answering my questions.  I have really enjoyed your curriculum.


Hi Liddia,

Glad to hear things are (or were) going really well with the first couple of stories! To answer your questions:

1. Each of my lesson plan books is designed to fill up one semester of Spanish, so 1A would be the first semester and 1B would be second semester, but, no, I don't always get through all of the stories in a given semester or year, and it works out okay. But if you think you're going too fast and are worried that you won't have enough stories to fill up a whole year, you may have to space them out and alternate with a reading, games, and/or culture day here and there.

2. Yes, I do have a suggestion for what to do about the novelty wearing off of doing skits. Don't do circling. I don't do it because it drives the kids (and me) nuts. Just narrate the skit all the way through with actors and a few props, then sit the actors down and do Q&A all the way through the story in Spanish, coaching them to respond chorally. That plus the reading (which I now put off until the following day’s lesson, first thing after the warm-up quiz) is enough repetition for my expectations of how much Spanish my students need to learn in a given year. Also, in my classes the skits themselves are more fun if I have the class choose the actors. For more info on exactly how I do that, see my blog posts on Getting Actors part 1 and part 2.

Another suggestion - don't do a skit every single day if they start acting bored with it. Break it up with the ideas I mentioned above.

A third suggestion - I also have a blog post on 25 Ideas for Extending the Learning With Each Story that might add some variety and spice to what you're doing.

Give yourself time and compassion as you're learning to pull off excellent skits in class. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out how to make it fun every time, and even then, there are simply going to be some "off" days with students. Don't let it get you down. Next time you do a skit, act like everything's great and the skit they are going to act out is awesome!

Hope this helps, and let me know how it goes.


(Thanks Liddia for the great questions! Everyone else, feel free to chime in with other suggestions that work for you!)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why Spanish 3 is the Right Level for Really Focusing on Grammar

Classes started for me this past week, and Friday I taught my first explicit grammar lesson in level 3 (a review of subject pronouns, their forms and uses.) I used a three-page "packet" copied from a Spanish grammar workbook that I bought on Amazon, the kind of workbook you buy if you're a college student or other adult looking to teach yourself Spanish grammar.

My class had just seen and heard the first skit in my 3A lessons, The Guy Who Fished in the Lake, answered my questions about the skit in Spanish, had a 4-minute break to play on their phones, talk to friends, etc., and then I passed out the grammar packet. Not usually the most-fun thing on the list, but they accepted it meekly and without complaining because we're still new to each other this year.

Then we started going through the information in the packet and filling out the exercises together. I do my grammar worksheets with them, projecting mine on the document camera as we talk about it, reason out the answers, and write everything out together.

Friday in class as we were going over the subject pronouns, I had several "aha" reactions to the grammar details. For example, when we wrote out a sentence that started with "Tú," I said, "Okay, 'tu' has a what...?" A few students: "Accent mark?" Me: "Yes." (Putting accent mark on it under the document camera.) Me: "When it doesn't have an accent mark on it, it means 'your,' like 'tu perro.'" Several students: "Oh!"

Now, it's not as if they haven't been presented with that information before, possibly many times in levels 1 and 2. But these level 3 students now have some decent fluency. I can speak quite a bit of free-form Spanish to them in class and they can understand and respond. (I gave them an entire talk about the history of Spanish and its connection to Latin in Spanish this past week, of course very simplified, but all in Spanish, and they understood what I was saying and answered questions about it.) At level 3 they are ready to dig into the nuts and bolts of grammar because they have something to hang it on. They have a good basic understanding of Spanish--Spanish the language, not Spanish the rules. Learning the rules of a language you already know makes so much more sense than learning rules alone, when you can't even read the sentences you're filling in the blanks to complete.

All this is not to say that we don't teach explicit grammar in levels 1 and 2 at my school. We certainly do, pretty much every block. But it is to say that the focus (in my opinion) at those levels should always be on developing fluency first, not on learning grammar rules. I can fix up and expand their grammar knowledge just fine in level 3 and beyond if they know Spanish. If they barely know any Spanish, I have to teach them Spanish first before they can really grasp and use the rules, and that just slows down the process.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Fall Start-Up Checklists to Get Ready for School!

Well, it's August, the month we kinda hate to see coming if we are K-12 teachers. I don't know about most of you, but I report back really early this year--this Wednesday August 12th. We have five (five!) teacher "work" days, also known as teacher MEETING days since they always take up at least 50% of your time with meetings, trainings, and anything but your actual work of setting up your classroom and getting ready to teach. Let's see, technically my work day is 7.5 hours at my current school, so I have 37.5 hours' worth of teacher "work" days, and let me look at the welcome-back letter and do some math...19 hours of meetings, trainings, and school obligations on the schedule, which doesn't include department meetings, PLC meetings, and all the make-work stuff you know will come out of the district trainings and meetings. Like log on to this or that new/changed software program and enter a bunch of data or what-have-you.

Anyway. My point is, I have learned to manage my time with a couple of checklists at the beginning of school. I save the second (longer) one as a Word document and then every year I update it quickly, delete and add a few things, print it out, and literally keep it within hand's reach so that every time I get a moment or two in my room, I know exactly what I'm supposed to be working on to get ready for the first day of class. I don't know about you, but without a checklist I can fall victim to kind of wandering around puttering in my room not really accomplishing much and rather confused about where I left off and what I was doing before the last meeting or interruption (because let's face it, you're going to spend another good 25% of your teacher work days chatting, socializing, and getting caught up with colleagues. Which is also an important part of the job, not to be neglected!)

Checklist #1, Things to Be Done BEFORE Teacher Work Days Unless You Want to Feel Very Behind and Stressed:

1. Go in to your classroom and spend 2-3 hours setting it up.

Tidying, arranging furniture, cleaning out old papers if you didn't do that in May (you DO have an End-Of-Year checklist, don't you? If not, I'll share mine in another post,) going through your supplies to see what you need (red pens, paperclips, stuff like that,) hooking up your electronic equipment (laptop, projector, document camera, etc.) and making sure everything works. You know, all the things that you'll sit in those meetings thinking about and wishing you could be in your room doing. If you go when no one's in the building but the custodial staff, 2-3 hours can be VERY productive, and I always thank myself later a million times over when I'm sitting through the trainings and meetings and socializing sessions.

2. Create and/or update syllabi (1-2 hours)

This is especially vital if you have multiple preps. Have the syllabi in a manila folder ready to copy on the first day of teacher work days, before the copiers break and you're biting your nails hoping you have something to do in front of your students on the first day of class besides tap-dance and ventriloquy.

3. Lesson Plan for the first three to five days and have all your masters ready to copy (2-6 hours)

I know, groan, and after not doing lesson plans all summer it feels like pulling teeth to figure out a few days of lessons and get masters ready, but trust me, if you do it, you'll be sitting back with a big smile on your face during teacher work days knowing you're way ahead of the game.

Checklist #2, Things To Do During Teacher Work Days 

(This is my actual list - yours may greatly vary depending upon your specific school/district situation. Also, I'll be adding to this list once work days start and I see what else I'm expected to do. This is the one I keep at hand constantly so I know what I'm doing when I get a moment in my room.)

¾  Reorganize/clean out filing cabinets (if not done in May)
¾  Set up files for Fall 2015 (Student Work, Late Work, Attendance)
¾  Check/update bulletin boards and walls
¾  Make Seating Charts & Print
¾  Lesson Plans for FD (first day) complete/copies made or turned in
¾  Lesson Plans for first week complete/copies made or turned in
¾  Finalize decorating/organizing/setting up handouts for FD
¾  Check/clean out email/update agenda & calendar
¾  Set up gradebook and enter first assignment(s)
¾  Organize/clean out props & visuals (if not done in May)
¾  Email dept chair my syllabi/expectations
¾  Emergency sub plan to front office/set up in back of room
¾  Put together AP study packets and copy
¾  Look up plans (IEPs, ILPs, etc.) in Alpine
¾  Choose Giga Lab dates for AP and request them
¾  Check if I have enough credit for salary increase/request if so
¾  Courtesy Fund donation
¾  Self-eval in Bloomboard
¾  Teacher Website – get something started on each class page and syllabi attached

Whew. That's a long checklist, which is why I have the other one for before work days start.

When do you guys start work, how many work days do you have this year, and what tips do you have for surviving the craziness???

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Using My Spanish Lesson Plan Books with Avancemos, Realidades, Ven Conmigo, En Español, etcetera

I've been getting a lot of very similar questions this month on email about using my books with textbooks other than Exprésate (the textbook we use in my district, and the one that my lesson plans are aligned with in terms of vocab lists and grammar topics.) Here is a recent email I received:

Hi, my name is Tammy.  I teach Level 1.  I taught middle school Spanish for 16 years and I've been teaching high school level for the past 2.  I've always pretty much followed the textbook, but added my own supplemental materials and ideas.  I'm looking for way to "shake up" my teaching that gets me away from the textbook more often and gets my students more motivated and using Spanish so I ordered your 1A and 1B books.   At our school, we use the Avancemos series.  I'm excited to use your lessons but am concerned about the students moving to level 2.  The level 2 teachers stick to the textbooks.  Have you looked at the Avancemos series?  I know that your lessons are modeled after a different textbook, but have you compared them?  Any suggestions for how to incorporate the textbook occasionally so that my students aren't overwhelmed when they go into level 2 and deal exclusively with the textbook?  Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks so much!!!

My response:

Hi Tammy,
I haven't compared Exprésate (our textbook) to Avancemos, but I'd be willing to bet it's almost exactly the same. Exprésate (and every other mainstream Spanish 1 textbook I've seen) starts out with greetings and introductions, then goes into numbers, colors, family, school supplies and subjects, food, houses and rooms, food, dishes, activities, clothing, shopping, etc. The grammar topics are present tense, adjectives, pronouns, present progressive, and a little touch on preterit in chapter 8 (the last chapter I drew from for my 1B book.) There may be some variance in the order of those basic vocab groups in Avancemos, but by the end of Spanish 1 you will have taught a ton of just about any textbook’s vocab lists. If you are supposed to be on a certain chapter during a certain month, you could probably rearrange my lessons to match the vocab set you're on in Avancemos. If you didn't already, look at the vocab lists for my 2009 Spanish 1A and 1B and you'll see exactly the vocab and grammar sequence I used and how well it fits with what you need. 

Link to 1A vocab list is here.
Link to 1B vocab list is here.
[UPDATED 2017 Spanish 1A Lessons available in my TPT store now.]

As far as students being overwhelmed by the textbook in Spanish 2, they probably won't like the textbook but I'm betting they won't be overwhelmed by the level of difficulty by any means. They'll be freewriting 100 word narrative essays in Spanish in 10 minutes with no dictionary, be able to tell a basic story in Spanish off the top of their heads, and be able to read (translate) a full page of Spanish out loud in five minutes or less by the end of Spanish 1. Now what I would do so that you don't run into problems meeting the textbook teachers’ expectations is use either your textbook grammar exercises if they make sense (Exprésate's don't) or find other grammar worksheets and teach the heck out of conjugating present tense verbs and whatever other grammar topics the Spanish 2 teachers expect your kids to know. I teach explicit grammar for the final 15 minutes of every block and that works really well for me.

So that's how I would mostly incorporate the textbook, is use it as a resource for grammar. And of course if Avancemos has any other activities that you've used and liked, throw 'em in when you're on that set of vocab in my lessons.

Hope this helps! Thanks again and let me know if you have any other questions that arise.

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