11 December 2009

A song with 37 repetitions of "más que"

The winner of the Latin Grammy for Mejor Nuevo Artista this year, and nominated in a similar category for Premio Lo Nuestro 2010, is a blond, dimpled native of D.F. named Alexander Acha. One of his most popular tunes is the song "Te Amo." I had to tell my students to give him a chance through the Josh Groban/Andrea Bocelli-sounding verse (which I love) and get to the chorus, and I actually had several of them vote for him for Premio Lo Nuestro. The most important feature of the song is that I count 37 repetitions of "más que" or "más aun que". Fabulous.

07 December 2009

Switch to a communicative set-up

How is your classroom laid out? Is it conducive to communicative teaching and acquisition?
Recently my principal came back from a visit to another school and showed me a picture (on his iPhone of course) of a classroom that made him think of me. The teacher had put several tables together and then cut a giant oval piece of wood and laid it on top to create a large oval table. All his students sat around this oval table and he and they loved the setup. And this was in a primarily lecture class.
I told my principal that the standard students-in-rows-of-desks is a legacy of 150 years of education, way back in one-room schoolhouses when all grades were in one room with one teacher learning all subjects. If our education system has changed so drastically, why hasn't the setup of the classroom?
Nowhere is this more true than in language classes. Students need to be in a situation that helps them scaffold and collaborate because language is not a one-person game. You can learn and do math on your own, you can read history and answer essay questions, but language is not a solitary activity by nature. In the article Classroom Layout Preference Reflects Teaching Style authors Fernando Doménech Betoret and Amparo Gómez Artiga write that "Teachers-in-training with a specialization in languages perceived a layout with students seated in forward-facing rows as suitable for individual work (e.g., grammar and writing activities), but perceived a layout with desks in a half-square configuration as more suitable for speaking activities." My question is, since when is language "individual work"? That's part of the problem plaguing American world language teaching.
The fact is that a layout involving students sitting in groups of four or five is most useful when you have small groups working because it "encourages talk within the small groups, and exchanges with the teacher." Does that not sound like a language class?
In this small-group setup it's most helpful to "have the students sit so they're side on to you and remember to move around the classroom when you need to give instructions or change activities."

Here's my system:
I arrange tables in my room so that students are 4 to a table and are sitting facing sideways to me. They can easily turn their chairs to face the front if necessary, but mostly they are facing each other.
The first day of class my students make a "name tent" (a 5X8 card folded in half lengthwise) with their English name on one side and a Spanish name on the other (this also helps me learn their names). Each day before each class, I take about 30 seconds to randomly set out the tents. I go one on this table, one on the next, and so on. Then at the end I collect them all by table so they'll go out in a different order next time.
This way, I ensure that students are sitting with different people all the time. At least most of the time, they'll be sitting with someone who's better than they are, and someone who struggles more than they do, so there's a lot of scaffolding going on amongst themselves. This also helps one of my classroom policies to not answer as many questions as possible, rather to let students answer each other's questions.
So I challenge you to evaluate how your classroom is set up and rework it to promote communicative teaching and acquisition. You'll be surprised at the results!

30 November 2009

Print & audio sources for AP synthesis essay re: efficient energy

In the world language classroom, we are not just teaching language. Language as a means of communication by its very nature enables us to touch our world in different ways. That's why I say all the time that a major part of our responsibility is to help our students become world citizens by keeping them informed on what's going on in the Latin world. Another aspect of this is to encourage "green" thinking in light of the Latin world. That's not hard to do, given that the world's largest rainforest and concentration of species is found on the South American continent.

The people who write the AP exam are aware of this as well. They want our students to be green citizens like we do, and chances are there's going to be something on the environment on the AP. This whole emphasis is clear if you open any advanced or AP Spanish textbook--there's usually an entire unit devoted to the topic. I know in the AP curriculum I've created for my classroom, my fourth unit is on the environment.

Because of this focus, in this unit my students wrote an essay about the importance of developing efficient sources of energy and hypothesizing on where energy technology will take us in the future (good use of future tense & subjunctive). My two print sources were a Wall Street Journal article entitled "Cinco tecnologías que podrían cambiarlo todo" and an article from Yahoo Autos about the features on the upcoming Chevrolet Volt.
The audio for the essay comes from a video taken at the recent Solar Decathlon in Washington. It's featured on the YouTube channel and website of Solar Decathlon Europe, who are looking forward to holding the competition in Spain next year--a golden opportunity for you to highlight this important event in the Spanish classroom.

23 November 2009

Share with your students the 1st winner of Viva el sueño

What teenager doesn't like American Idol? The Latin version of American Idol is Viva el Sueño, broadcast on Univisión and just ending its first season. Here's a great video to share with your students of the winner, Ana Isabelle. Spanish 1 students can understand whom she's thanking, and who each speaker is based on the titles at the bottom, and beyond that there's a lot of great verb switching, vocabulary, communicative tools like "bien (adj)" and "no se crean." Very high-interest, lots of accents and great language!

Here's the video of her victory song:

And of course I have to post Luis Fonsi singing "Llueve por dentro" on the finale:

21 November 2009

The best songs for voy + a + infinitive

Voy + a + infinitive is a fun construction because it gives students the ability to talk about the future without too much trouble. It's also fun to teach through music because there are several good songs for it. The first is 'Irreemplazable' by Beyonce, always fun because the students know the English version. It has three unique and at least 9 repetitions of voy a constructions.
Another song that's good for this is new on my radar, El amor de mi tierra by Carlos Vives. It has four occurrences of voy a.

There was another one, and I wrote down the wrong title. When I come across it again I'll update this post.

A case for free-topic blogging

I despise traditional homework. I think in language acquisition, it doesn't help. If you want kids to learn to drill conjugations, give them worksheets, but otherwise, keep ALL your assignments and assessment communicative. For me, this means that most of what I could ask them to do at home, they'll get frustrated doing on their own. I'd much rather they collaborate in class. Language is a social tool, not a solitary home exercise. So, if you're going to assign homework, make it social. For me, this means the only exercises my students do outside of class are reading, some sort of developing fluency activity, and blogging. Here are some tips for starting a blog in your class.

* Make the blog private. I know some of my Twitter friends like to tweet what their students are blogging, but I think that is walking on very thin ice in any class with minors. I'd love to link my students' blogs here, and tweet about what they write, but I choose the high road rather than risk it. I set my student blogs on the most private setting Google allows. You can't find it on a search engine and you can't find it unless you know the address, which is pretty well coded for me and my students. Then when you get there, it asks for a username and password to sign in.

* Get permission forms. Even if you've set it extra private, still get a permission formed signed by parents. Give them an option to be added as a reader of the blog. Most parents tell me just to go ahead with it without them (most can't read Spanish anyway), but several do ask to be a reader and I add them. Only once have I had a parent refuse permission altogether, on the grounds that you can't be too careful on the internet, and that student turned in his blog on paper all year.

* Let them write about WHATEVER THEY WANT. Research shows that we acquire vocabulary that is meaningful and useful to us. You know this. I'm a teacher, reader, techie, Christian, blogger, new mom, hiker, and that's where my vocabulary is. Get me in a conversation about building houses (either in English or Spanish) and my language breaks down. I had a student who will always remember the word for 'deer' and 'hunt' because that's what he always blogged about. He's a hunter. It's important to him. I can't stress this enough-let them write what they want!

* Define what the rules are.
--I set a reasonable word count (answering questions in Spanish 1 first semester, 25 words in Spanish 1 spring- Spanish 2 fall, 35 words Spanish 2 spring-Spanish 3 fall, 50 words Spanish 3 spring-AP Spanish).
--NO English. My students know that if there's a word in English that's not a proper noun, they cannot get an A.
--Grammar does count some. Above Spanish 1, a subject with an infinitive cannot get an A either. They have to show me they know something has to happen to the verb, even if it's the wrong thing.
--Translation websites are an automatic zero. You can tell if they've used one. I can often even find the one they used to prove to the parents they used it. wordreference.com is linked on the blog and it's the only site they can use.

* Skim to grade. Set a scale that makes it easy for you to grade them quickly or you'll give up on them. Look for outstanding = perfect grade. No English, met word count, no infinitives with subjects = A. Translation = 0. And so on.

* Accept them handwritten for students who just won't blog. You can't force technology. Also, sometimes students' power goes out or their computer dies. It's an alternative.

* Set a time when they're due and rules for accepting late. Mine are due by 8 am Friday morning (yes I'm aware they can change the time-stamp but I tell them that's lying and leave it at that). Handwritten ones have to be signed by the secretary because I don't get to school until 10:45 (I'm part-time). The grade is 25% off at one day late and 50% off at 2-5 days late. At 5 days late the student has to complete the blog in a forced after-school study hall. All of that is part of our school-wide policy.

* Encourage creativity. Reward/compliment students who post video, songs, pictures, links, etc. I once had a student write FIVE HUNDRED WORDS about Dropbox and give me links to tutorials and the download. I gave him a pass from the next two blogs.

* MOST IMPORTANT: Resist the temptation to accept English or to suggest the topic. It's not the purpose of a blog. Let them make the post their own. PLEASE. They're going to acquire the vocabulary that's meaningful to them whether you like it or not. This gives them a way to do it without fighting you.

Give your students the chance to express themselves and you'll be amazed at the progress in their communicative competence, at least in writing!

19 November 2009

It's 19 de noviembre!

19 De Noviembre - Carlos Vives

Take advantage of today's date to play Carlos Vives' song 19 de noviembre. Here are some ways to use it:

-See if they can hear the date at the beginning without seeing it (Spanish 1).

-Tell students to look under "Historia" in this article to see why 19 de noviembre is an important day in Puerto Rico.
-Offer a bonus to someone who can find out why a Colombian singer wrote a song about Puerto Rico. (Interesting that now he and the 2nd wife he wrote the song for are separated.)

-patriotic words (evident even for low learners)

-preterite tú forms (almost as good as Qué Hiciste)
-good example of passive se in "se oyen" (hard to find in songs)
-yo/tú future switch
-pronouns, esp. yo reflexives and a rare double-object on double verb phrase in 'te lo quiero agradecer'

Enjoy--it's a good song!

17 November 2009

Camila's new single: "Mientes" (release date 11/24!)

My students are insanely excited about the release of Camila's sophomore album. Several of them can sing "Solo para ti" or "Coleccionista de canciones" or "Abrázame" from memory. The first single from the album, "Mientes," will be released next week on the 24th. Meanwhile, you can hear the whole amazing song on their YouTube channel here. It sounds great, and looks like it will be good for yo-form preterites from er/ir verbs and for all present tú forms. Enjoy!

11 November 2009

A case for pleasure reading

Stephen Krashen has done a ton of research on what he calls Free Voluntary Reading. Catch up on his research by checking it out on his website. Basically, the premise is that kids learn more (and language learners acquire more vocabulary) when reading at an appropriate leve and something that is pleasurable to them. I was so won over by the research in this area that last year I decided my students were going to read a fiction book outside of class. Mi criteria were that the book had to be related to Latin culture in some way, preferably by a Latino/a author. As a result, my students read Cajas de cartón in the fall of Spanish 3, Esperanza renace in the spring of Spanish 3, and Ciudad de las bestias in AP Spanish. Watching my AP Spanish students read now, after reading the two books last year, I can see how much their reading comprehension has jumped. Also, they could tell you countless stories of how certain vocabulary are imprinted in their memories because of reoccurrences in context in the books, which they like.

Last year I had them read the chapter and then take an open-book quiz in class the day the chapter was due. There were some problems with that, especially that it was very time-consuming and I value my in-class time too much. So this year, they are doing reading guides instead, and this has worked wonderfully. As a taste, here is the list of Palabras Claves and here is the Reading Guide for Chapter 10 of Ciudad. I'm a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel, so if you want any or all of the reading guides (and vocab lists) message me on twitter at secottrell and I'll upload them all to my Google Docs.

Get kids reading level-appropriate fun stories--it works!

10 November 2009

Noviembre - a popular month for songs

November seems to be kind of a popular topic for songs. Celebrate this oddity by playing a couple of songs, starting with Noviembre sin ti by Reik, winners of this year's Latin Grammy for best albúm pop vocal grupo o duo. The things I like to point out in this song are:
--weather/environment vocabulary
--nosotros forms
--understanding 'hojas' by context if they know 'caen' (and it's November, sooo...)
--'otra vez'
--'aquel' for distance in time and not just space
-- who/what is the subject of 'me dice' in the chorus?
Here's another version at a concert. Both of those videos do not have copyright problems; show away!

The other song is packed with cultural connections: 19 de noviembre by Carlos Vives.

What I do with this song:
--Play it and see if they can catch the date at the beginning (in Spanish 1)
--Offer some sort of reward for who can figure out what 19 de noviembre is in Puerto Rico and why Carlos Vives is singing about it when he's Colombian.
--Look for patriotic vocabulary.

¡Disfruta de noviembre!

07 November 2009

Zachary Jones's "Clozeline"

Don't re-invent the wheel-often there are magically appealing and effective activities out there on the web if you just know where to look. I just got a link over Twitter to Zachary Jones's post about his activity called "Clozeline." He's got cloze quizzes to a whole bunch of songs, with grammatical topics. Enjoy!

04 November 2009

Two songs + resources for Ojalá + subjunctive

The word Ojalá is, in my estimation, the only 'verb' in Spanish that isn't conjugated. It finds its roots in Arabic, meaning "May allah grant that." In any case, in Spanish it's always followed by subjunctive, and here are two songs to help work with that.

The first is with present, Ojalá que llueva café, by Juan Luis Guerra. It's one of those songs that can lead you in a hundred different directions. It's a bit controversial from what I understand, and is a perspective on the life of the poor in the Dominican Republic.

I found some interesting blogging on the song. For example, read what José has to say about the song and its meaning. Then, use this cool site by Ms. Nelson to work with the song, complete with lyrics linked to pictures to aid in comprehension.
I just found out that the song was re-recorded by Café Tacvba, with some killer fiddling:

The other song unfortunately does not have much in the way of resources but is the best I've heard to work with Ojalá + past subjunctive or just past subjunctive by itself (Si volvieras a mí by Josh Groban is beautiful to me but not so appealing to most of my high-schoolers). It's Ojalá pudiera borrarte by Maná. The video used to be on YouTube but was removed, and now is only available in cheesy photo collages, especially since I can't get imeem to search anything at the moment.

Ojalá que you enjoy them.

A song just for @mamitati

This is a special post out to Tati, amazing bilingual mami blogger at WannaJugarWithMigo?

I caught this song just the other day and I LOVE it! It's a Christian song (I teach at a Christian school). Well, most of my high-schoolers were not as impressed as I was, but it'll be fun to teach to my Zoe anyway. :)

30 October 2009

You can't buy this in a textbook

There are so many reasons to dislike conventional world language curriculum; my #1 is that the books are out of date before they go to press. So your students are reading about how there hasn't been a successful coup d'etat in Latin America since the end of the Cold War, and meanwhile Micheletti and the Supreme Court rocked the Honduran world with global repercussions, and some good ole' Costa Rican, Brazilian, and U.S. intervention later, signed a historic agreement to try to resolve the crisis. Our students should know this stuff as they become world citizens but they aren't going to get it from a textbook.

As some recent examples of how this has played out in my class, let me share some ways the vast free material on the internet has impacted my students' learning and awareness.

When you're teaching past participles, you've gotta go to news articles. They're rife with "it's closed" "he was shot" "they have said" "this has happened". So my students were surfing a muy actual article about the US authorities bringing down 300 members of the powerful Mexican drug cartel knows as "La familia." The article contains at least 5 uses of haber + past participle, 9 of ser/estar + past participle, and 12 past participles used purely as an adjective. So they were going through looking for those and we discussed what the article was about.
The next day one of my students said, "We heard about this on the radio this morning and I was like, "Mom, we already talked about that yesterday in Spanish class!" So my students were all informed on this big drug bust before it even came on their radio.

A few days later, a student came in and wanted to write on the board, "Ashley is eating oatmeal." But they've never had the word for oatmeal so she asked me what it was. I told her and she put it on the board. Not 10 minutes later, a tweet came through from @jesseyjoy, one of their favorite pop artists especially lately with the release of Adios, and it came up on my screen because I always have TweetDeck opened. Joy was tweeting that she had just eaten oatmeal as a healthy breakfast but would likely have pizza soon. My student *squealed* at the coincidence of Joy using the word 'avena' right after she had used it.

A couple of days after that, I read a few tweets by @Ricky_Martin, who frequently tweets in English, then Spanish, then Portuguese. He said that rhyming dictionaries suck, in Spanish they 'no sirven para nada', and in Portuguese used a rather, um, colorful word. So I tweeted that Ricky Martin was swearing in Portuguese and I was actually sad that I understood it. Next thing I know I get a direct message from Ricky Martin laughingly apologizing and sending love and peace to me and my family! WHOA! What do you think my students thought about that?

Seriously, like someone said on Twitter this week, if you don't like change, let's see how you like irrelevance.
You just can't buy this stuff in a textbook.

27 October 2009

Cultural connections: Four songs to explore using Google Earth

I recently got permission to download Google Earth and it is addictive. For class, we've used it to look at the cropland around the towns in California where Francisco Jimenez grew up as a migrant child. We've used it to explore as much as possible the trip up the Orinoco by Alex and the crew from International Geographic. Recently it's occurred to me that it could be fun to use it as a cultural connector to explore songs as well. Here's a brief list I thought of.

1. What's the distance between Ciudad Nueva and San Pedro de Macorís? How many baseball fields can you see in a quick flyover of San Pedro? La llave de mi corazón, Juan Luis Guerra

2. Where/what size is Medellín relative to Bogotá? Lo que me gusta a mí, Juanes

3. Track the lover's search from Guaynabo to Aguadilla to El Cabo to Miami in No me hagas sufrir, Manny Manuel

4. Have a whirlwind tour of the planet tracking another lover's search in La Travesía, Juan Luis Guerra

Be careful, I promise it's addictive!

26 October 2009

David Bisbal's YouTube channel

David Bisbal is all over the music news lately for his whirlwind promotion of his new album, Sin Mirar Atrás (and it doesn't hurt that his esposa Elena is expecting a little princesita). To stay up-to-date on what he's doing these days, follow him on Twitter @davidbisbal and check out his muy chévere YouTube channel. This link goes to the video for a really beautiful song on the album, Mi Princesa. Here's the embeddable video, though it likely won't be on YouTube for long.

While you're there, take a listen to his chart-topping Esclavo de Sus Besos and the rare not-a-love-song reggaetón collaboration (in his pre-curly-hair days) with Wisin and Yandel, Torre de Babel.
And hey, if you (and/or your students) just can't get enough of David Bisbal and his postnasal interdental fricatives, he's got a blog!

25 October 2009

Correction on Pin Pon in Shrek

I blogged about the brilliant use of Pin Pon in the Shrek film (to replace the culturally irrelevant reference to the Muffin Man) here. But since then it appears that video has been removed. The clip is currently available here. (As an added correction I should mention that the tale is actually from a Chilean children's program--not Puerto Rican.) Enjoy!

23 October 2009

Four songs for contrasting que & lo que

If you're going to explain to students the difference between que and lo que and expect that to do the trick, good luck. I don't think I've ever taken the time to explain the difference in my class, but it's interesting to see how students use it just with input. For a more focused approach, to take advantage of noticing, try using these songs and just pointing out the most obvious contrasts.

For 'que,' you need input where the 'que' appears at the beginning a lot. It's easy enough to understand that 'que' joins to clauses, but what about at the beginning of an expression? For this, try the songs "Tú no eres para mí" by Fanny Lu and "Quién te dijo eso" by Luis Fonsi:

For 'lo que', you need the same thing in order to make a good contrast. For this, try the songs "Lo que me gusta a mí" by Juanes and "Esto es lo que soy" by Jesse y Joy:

I especially like these because in each pair, one is fast and one is slower, and there's one guy (well, two if you count Jesse) and one girl, so they're appealing in different ways to different audiences.

(Note: Fanny Lu's too skanky to show in my class, at least all of her videos except 1 that I've seen. The Juanes video is just the song. The Fonsi video is fine but a copyright violation in my opinion and likely won't be on Youtube for long. The Jesse y Joy is the only one that's classroom-worthy without copyright problems.)

20 October 2009

Nominados en la 10a entrega de los Latin Grammy

This has been out for a while but I thought I'd post it in one list here. It always surprises me how few of these I've ever heard of. Always makes me head to imeem or YouTube to hear some new stuff. SO glad to see Aquí Estoy Yo as one of the nominados for recording of the year.

My source for this was Univision.com's portada de los Latin Grammy & it's a work in progress.

Grabación del Año
No Hay Nadie Como Tú, Calle 13 Featuring Café Tacvba
Aquí Estoy Yo, Luis Fonsi con Aleks Syntek, Noel Schajris y David Bisbal
Arlequim Desconhecido, Ivan Lins & The Metropole Orchestra
Si No Vas A Cocinar, José Lugo Orchestra Featuring Gilberto Santa Rosa
En Cambio No, Laura Pausini

Canción del Año
Aquí Estoy Yo: Claudia Brant, Luis Fonsi & G. Reuben, songwriters (Luis Fonsi con Aleks Syntek, Noel Schajris y David Bisbal)
Día Tras Día: Yoel Henríquez & Jorge Luis Piloto, songwriters (Andrés Cepeda)
Me Fui: Bebe & Carlos Jean, songwriters (Bebe)
Verte Sonreír: Alejandro Lerner, songwriter (Alejandro Lerner)
Yo No Sé Mañana: Jorge Luis Piloto & Jorge Villamizar, songwriters (Luis Enrique)

Album del Año
Los De Atrás Vienen Conmigo, Calle 13
Día Tras Día, Andrés Cepeda
Ciclos, Luis Enrique
Regência: Vince Mendoza, Ivan Lins & The Metropole Orchestra
Cantora 1, Mercedes Sosa

Mejor Nuevo Artista
Alexander Acha
Claudio Corsi
India Martinez
Luz Rios

Mejor Album Instrumental
Duets, Carlos Franzetti & Eddie Gomez
Live At Caramoor, Jovino Santos Neto & Weber Lago
Lua Cheia Mauro Senise Toca Dolores Duran E Sueli Costa, Mauro Senise
Across The Divide, Omar Sosa
Moving Forward, Bernie Williams

Mejor Album de Rock Vocal
Hellville De Luxe, Bunbury
Miedo Escénico, Beto Cuevas
Solo O En Compañía De Otros, Miguel Ríos
Teatro, Draco Rosa
Un Mañana, Spinetta

Mejor Canción Rock
El Reino Olvidado, Walter Giardino, songwriter (Rata Blanca)
Entre Tus Jardines, Saúl Hernández, songwriter (Jaguares)
Hay Muy Poca Gente, Bunbury, songwriter (Bunbury)
Qué Me Vas A Decir, Jose Luis Belmonte, Diego Frenkel & Sebastián Schachtel, songwriters (La Portuaria)
Una Hora A Tokyo, Airbag, songwriters (Airbag) Track from: Una Hora A Tokyo [Warner Music Argentina]

Mejor Album de Rock Vocal Duo o Grupo
Una Hora A Tokyo, Airbag
Alex Lora De El Three A El Tri Rolas Del Alma Mi Mente y Mi Aferración, El Tri
45, Jaguares
El Reino Olvidado, Rata Blanca
Hogar, Volovan

Mejor Album de Música Alternativa
Mucho +, Babasonicos
Barracuda, Kinky
Commercial, Los Amigos Invisibles
Coba Coba, Novalima
Reptilectric, Zoé

Mejor Canción Alternativa
Bestia, Hello Seahorse!, songwriters (Hello Seahorse!)
Mas Fuerte, Cucu Diamantes, Andres Levin, Beatriz Luengo & Yotuel Romero, songwriters
Millones, Camila Moreno, songwriter
Moving, Macaco, songwriter
Nada, Alex Pérez & Juan Son, songwriters
No Hay Nadie Como Tú, Ruben Albarran Ortega, Eduardo Cabral, Emmanuel Del Real Diaz, René Pérez, Enrique Rangel Arroyo & Jose Alfredo Rangel Arroyo, songwriters

Mejor Album Cristiano (en español)
Esperando Tu Voz, Paulina Aguirre
Alabanza Y Adoración: Del Corazón, Lucía Parker
Poquito A Poco, Promissa
Su Trayectoria, David Velásquez
Tuyo Soy, Alan Villatoro

Mejor Album Cristiano (en portugués)
Compromisso, Regis Danese
Eu Não Vou Parar, Marina De Oliveira
Eu Tenho A Promessa, Jozyanne
Depois Da Guerra, Oficina G3
Fé, André Valadão

Mejor Album de Jazz Latino
Forests, Brazilian Trio
Kenya Revisited Live!!! Bobby Sanabria conducting the Manhattan School Of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra text
Sepulveda Boulevard, Charlie Sepulveda & The Turnaround
Nouveau Latino, Nestor Torres
Juntos Para Siempre, Bebo Valdés y Chucho Valdés

Mejor Album de Música Clásica
Bach: Cello Suites, Andrés Díaz
Cavaleiro Neukomm Criador Da Música De Câmara No Brasil, Ricardo Kanji & Rosana Lanzelotte
Concierto De Aniversario, Ricardo Morales & The Pacifica Quartett
Villa-Lobos: Piano Music; Guia Pratico, Albums 10 and 11; Suite Infantil Nos. 1 and 2
Sonia Rubinsky

Mejor Obra/Composición Clásica Contemporania
Cuatro Asimetrias Para El Cuarteto De Guitarras De Asturias Entre Quatret, Orlando Jacinto Garcia
Danças Nativas, Clarice Assad, composer
Inca Dances, Gabriela Lena Frank, composer
Variations On A Souvenir, Roberto Sierra, composer
Voces Del Barrio, Alfonso Fuentes, composer

Story and songs for subjunctive: indefinite/negative antecedent

Subjunctive by reason of indefinite or negative antecedent... doesn't that sound fun? This is my story for this reason of subjunctive. We do this in the spring semester of Spanish 2.
Our principal wakes up in the morning and goes to school. He asks the woman at the front desk, "I'm looking for the student who... (fill in talents of students in your class)" Ex: "Busco al estudiante que toca la guitarra mejor que Santana." (This is diagrammed/drawn on the left of the board.)
The woman at the front desk doesn't know (name). She calls the teacher over the intercom and says, "Do you have a student who... (toque la guitarra mejor que Santana)." (This is diagrammed/drawn in the middle.)
The teacher in the classroom has no clue who (name) is. She says, "There's no student here who (toque la guitarra mejor que Santana)."
We go through the sequence for at least 3, preferably four talents. By the third, maybe by the second, students should be making the subjunctive switch for you, especially if you write the final vowels in the verbs in a different color, even though they don't know why.
At the end of the story, it turns out that the reason none of the students were at the school was that (principal) was at (rival school), and actually it was all a dream!
After the story, I draw a head with a check mark on the left, a head with a question mark in the middle, a head with an X on the right. Students fairly readily grasp, "En su mente, sí existe." "En su mente, ¿existe esa persona? No sabe." "En su mente, la persona no existe."

The two songs that go along with this are La Traviesa by Juan Luis Guerra, and Esto es lo que soy by Jesse y Joy.

Remember to ask, ask, ask. If you present them with the input the right way, they'll figure it out themselves, but you can't assume they know it until they tell you so.

Most of all, have fun and make it fun. Fun = motivating.

16 October 2009

AP sythesis essay sources: Los indocumentados y el sistema de salud

When you're testing someone to place them in a certain level at a language school, you're supposed to push them until their language breaks down, and the best way to do that is to stop asking "is your mom tall" and start asking "what do you think about interracial marriage?" The assumption is that when people express their opinions, they get emotionally involved and think less about their language, and they get into vocabulary they're not used to using. So why don't we do that with our students?

After a relatively calm first couple of units, my third unit in AP Spanish is a short one on health. I decided to move away from the "use reflexive verbs to describe how you take care of yourself" and make my students think about the issues related to undocumented workers and the U.S. healthcare system and healthcare reform.

First hurdle: my students did not know what the health department was. They thought I was talking about the health inspector.

After we got that cleared up, our "story" was about a lawyer in Lexington (KY) who last year sued the health department for treating illegal immigrants, saying that their services should be reserved for taxpayers. A judge threw the case out for the garbage it was, but it's a good point to get my students thinking--what's the difference between an illegal immigrant and a citizen? Paying taxes? Do most of the people who use the health department make enough money to pay federal income tax? Do illegal immigrants pay sales tax when they go to the store? Do they pay property tax, whether themselves or through their landlords? What type of healthcare does the health department provide? How much money does this preventative and contraceptive care save our healthcare system every year? Is there ever a reason to deny a child a vaccine that's available, ever?

Then our oral presentation and synthesis essay were drawn from these two print and audio sources I found on the internet. You can't buy this stuff in a textbook. Your textbook was out of date when it went to press.

Here are the print sources:
'Dolor de cabeza' la reforma de salud

¿Dónde quedan los inmigrantes en la discusion de la reforma de salud?

And this is a very good downloadable audio source, quite clear and muy parecido al audio in the AP exam.
Denuncias contra indocumentados
The audio is part of a longer radio program, but the relevant parts for this essay are from 11:16-12:56 and 20:02-23:22.

Remember, we're preparing them for more than the AP.

15 October 2009

Blog that does what I do, only better

I wanted to give a shout out to Zachary Jones, a blogger I found out about through Twitter, who does what I do, only better. Take a minute to visit Actualidades and it'll be worth your time.

At least I still have my stories, haha.

11 October 2009

My October playlist

These are the songs I've downloaded this month:

REIK: Llegó tu amor, Noviembre sin ti
LUIS FONSI: Llueve por adentro, Quien te dijo eso
LA QUINTA ESTACIÓN WITH MARC ANTHONY: Recuérdame (Fabulous duet but too sensual for my class)
JUANES: Lo que me gusta a mí
JESSE Y JOY: Adiós (new single! love it!)
FANNY LU: Y si te digo

I budget myself at 10 songs per month, so that means I can download one more. LOL.

We must not ignore the Paz Sin Fronteras (video)

Juanes's Paz Sin Fronteras concert was such a big deal on the world politics scene (he's more deserving of the Nobel PP than Obama, but don't get me started on that, lol) that it would be a shame for a Spanish teacher to pass up the opportunity to encourage world citizens in our classrooms. Here's a videoclip I found on YouTube that's one of the best. It's short, interesting, summative, with incredibly clear audio and IMO the woman's Spanish is uber-comprehensible through most of the video. It almost sounds like she thinks she's talking to language learners!

08 October 2009

Build your perfect tenis (en español)

Here's another website idea--use nikecorre.com's shoe-builder to build the shoe that's right for you. I mean, for your students.


Video with por, haber, past participles, commands, from Coca Cola

You just never know what you'll find surfing through corporate websites. Yes, sometimes you end up getting a cow on a motorcycle through an obstacle-ridden farm on Mundonick.com, and that's fun, but corporate websites often contain videoclips that are pure gold for Spanish teachers. They're exactly what we need--short, high-impact, high-interest, and repetitive.

Go check out this human-interest video on Coca Cola Mexico's site. It's got multiple uses of por, haber + past participles, and commands, and could be a launching pad into conditional: if you were giving advice to a newborn, what would you say? what would you tell him that you would do differently?
Another interesting topic is how Coca Cola talks about finding happiness.

I would have explored classroom 2.0 a lot sooner.

25 September 2009

Latin Grammy website gets a cool makeover... and nominations!

The website of the Latin Recording Academy has undergone a serious makeover, and I have to say it is COOL. More importantly, the nominations for the Latin Grammys are out!! This is an important way for me to see what's new and what's popular-I'm always embarrassed at how few names I even recognize on the list! Gives me hours of entertainment on YouTube trying to figure it out though. :-) Check it out!

24 September 2009

Songs for the elusive 3rd pers. sing. preterite

Certain things are super easy to find songs for. Reflexives. Present tense, particularly yo y tú. Preterite yo y tú. That's about all love songs do, right? Talk about you and me in the past, lol. But the other day my colleague asked if I knew of any songs for 3rd-person preterite, and that was tough. I went through my whole lyrics file (which I'll email to you if you DM me @wandermami on twitter) and I did find two songs. The first I don't recommend for below Spanish 3. The song is Mojado by Ricardo Arjona. It's very politically charged and full of the poetic layers of meaning typical of Arjona. Please note that videos on YouTube were not uploaded by SonyBMG--I'll keep my eyes out for that one.

But my colleague teaches Spanish 1 and 2 so my quest continued. I did finally come across a good one--Arroyito by Fonseca. It has 9 occurrences of 3rd person preterite, 7 of them unique. And it's a good song by a good guy with a good video with no copyright problems.

I just made my first Yodio

I love professional conferences, particularly KWLA! What could be better than a bunch of awesome teachers getting together and sharing their best practices? That's how I found out about Yodio. My students in Spanish 3 today wandered the school taking pictures of teachers and staff "commanding" people to do things. They've written the commands and tomorrow we'll add the audio. I'd share it but I think I should keep photos of my students off this blog. But meanwhile I made my own, just with two pictures. Grab your kids, a camera, and a cell phone, and tell your own digital story!

20 September 2009

My Voki uses impersonal 'se'

One of the cool tools I was introduced to at the KWLA conference was Voki, a tool you can use to make a talking avatar. It's easier for me to show you what it is rather than explain it. We will be trying this out this week in my classes! :-)

Get a Voki now!

KWLA Fall 09 Conference presentation

This is the presentation I did for the fall conference of the Kentucky World Language Association.

And here is the handout.

Found Juanes on Twitter

You should follow Juanes on Twitter! He's tweeting right now about his ground-breaking concert for peace at the Plaza de la Revolución in Cuba. He's @juanestwiter; note that there's only one 't' in the middle of twiter.

For you French teachers

This weekend I was at the fall conference of the Kentucky World Language Association (phenomenal!) and after I gave my presentation on YouTube and pop music, it occurred to me I should have offered the French teachers present the url of my favorite French-teaching cyberamiga Diane (@parisprimrose), Foreign Language Fun.

Bilingual toy giveaway, gracias a @mamitati

Check out this post at one of my favorite blogs, WannaJugarWithMigo to see how to win a cool bilingual toy from one of my favorite cyberamigas, @mamitati.

16 September 2009

Abecedario video from YouTube

Turns out my school blocks tu.tv as 'adult/mature content' so here's the same video on YouTube if your situation is the same.

Hysterical video involving the abecedario à la Who's on First

Tu.tv is the Spanish version of YouTube and this was one of their headlined videos this week. SO funny. This is absolute gold even for Spanish 1... I mean, it involves the ABC's and 'la sé' what could be more Spanish 1??

Videos tu.tv

15 September 2009

Keeping your eyes open for gold nuggets

My husband is a bit of a tennis buff and so we were watching the US Open final yesterday and watched Argentinian Juan Martín del Potro defeat Federer in a stunning upset. In the awards ceremony, del Potro gave a short speech in Spanish (at 1 mins 15 sec). I thought, that'd be very interesting to my class--I have a tennis player in my AP class--and I wondered if it would be up on YouTube. Do I love YouTube? Yes I do.

This is authentic audio you could even use in Spanish 1-- he's thanking family members. What Spanish 1 class is complete without a lesson in family words?

08 September 2009

CNN launches Latino in America

Follow them on twitter-- @LIACNN

07 September 2009

Bob Esponja on Mundonick

I'm not sure why, but in my students' flurry of Spanish-language corporate sites they used for this project, we didn't run across Nickelodeon's Mundonick.com, probably because I was looking on Nickelodeon's US page and not finding a language change, so I figured they oddly didn't have one. But then recently I googled 'nickelodeon español' and what a cool site! Games! Fun! It surprised me how much my teenagers knew, all the characters' names and such, and instead of thinking it was a goofy kid thing, they really enjoyed the throwback and clamored to be the one to choose where we should go. Enjoy some Bob Esponja or Los Pingüinos de Madagascar.

29 August 2009

A correction on the correction of La Frase Tonta

I blogged about my favorite 5a Estación song, La Frase Tonta de la Semana, here and here. The second time I reported that the music video had been taken down for violation of copyright. Good news, Sony BMG has the videoclip oficial up on the La Quinta Estación YouTube channel, along with the duet with Alex Ubago of the same song.

On a side note, I think this new duet between Natalia and Marc Antony is fabulous, and I thought the video was going to be very interesting... until the sex scene ruled it inappropriate. Blah. Wish they wouldn't do that.

I am in technology heaven

Kids motivated by technology?
Want to get them creating AND listening to their own Spanish?
This could be the most revolutionary tool I have seen for my classroom in a long time.

I made this video in about twenty minutes.

26 August 2009

An AP oral presentation, with past tense: "Consecuencias"

Today my AP students will do what they do every Wednesday--give a 2-minute oral presentation based on a print source and an audio source, involving some type of synthesis and persuasion.

Our current unit (in my own curriculum) is called "Un Pasado que Me Construyó" and is intended to practice and develop command of the past tenses and discuss how our pasts affect who we are today. Today's topic is "Consecuencias," in other words, how our actions can have consequences.

Our print source is from theonlinemom.com and is about texting while driving. Our audio (video) source is a YouTube clip about alcoholism in Mexico, particularly in D.F.

It took me maybe 15 minutes to find these, and they're a lot more interesting than what's in Triángulo (which we are using as a supplement), IMO.

25 August 2009

I love crossover songs

I love crossover songs. That's what I call those songs that have so much good material in them that they're great from Spanish 1 to AP. Fanny Lu's new hit Tú No Eres Para Mí is one of those. It's especially good for uses and conjugations of ser. There's the title, which is of course a Spanish 1 level comment, all the way to fuera in unreal if clauses. As usual her video is too skanky for my class, but enjoy the songs. A girl making fun of a guy's cheesy pick-up lines? Super fun and lots of good grammar points. Enjoy.

Pan's Labyrinth, without subtitles (imperfect vs. preterite)

I found the intro to Pan's Labyrinth on YouTube, without subtitles! I'm totally against showing subtitled videos in class--if I can't concentrate on the Spanish audio, I know my students can't. But I love the intro to this movie, because it's such a good example of imperfect vs. preterite--this is what things used to be like when the girl lived in the under world, but then 'one day'... and every verb after that is preterite. Anything that can make the distinction clearer is a gem.

I'm pretty sure all the movies uploaded on YouTube in their entirety are big violations of copyright, but I consider this like the 'short portion for educational purposes' exception in print copyright law. I only show it up to the point where the girl escapes to the real world. And then I encourage my students to see the film... if their parents will okay it and agree with me that though it's rated R, the linguistic and historical significance outweigh the war-related violence (though I will say the torture scene is a bit much for me).

28 July 2009

Raimundo, the bilingual Latin American snail

Ever heard of Sorpresa TV?

It's kid shows, only in Spanish!

Among the many shows is The Wumblers, featuring Raimundo, a bilingual Latino snail. You can watch episodes online. Really, you've gotta check it out. Talk about fodder for early Spanish learners!!

Also check out the site's section of bilingual games.

14 July 2009

A song for object/refl pronoun 'te'

Fonseca is a fun singer, another Colombian (they can seriously turn out some people with rhythm, eh?) with some great songs for teaching. Of course our favorite in my class is the 'dancing firemen song' "Hace tiempo," which I blogged about here, but another one I like to use is "Te mando flores", with its more-than-acceptable video. It's a great song for teaching/practicing the d.o./i.o./reflexive pronoun te in all its applications. I count 18 uses of te without counting repeats. Also you can point out contigo and my students also learned that margarita is first a flower, not the alcoholic drink, lol.

30 June 2009

A song for your hip-hop fans

David Bisbal collaborated with reggaetón stars Wisin & Yandel on a unity-themed song called Torre de Babel. You can see the official music video here. Also, with reggaetón you never know, but I read through the lyrics and didn't see anything offensive, but you might want to take a look because while I'm familiar with most of the common expletives, I'm certainly no expert. I was aggravated at the video because I thought I'd be able to show it in class, but then towards the end there's a group of scantily-clad women dancing provocatively, and that's just not gonna happen in my class. Oh well, just thought I'd throw it out there for you anyway!

29 June 2009

Developing world citizens

With all the amazing things popping up on the internet, there's no excuse not to help our students become educated world citizens by keeping them pondering important events in the Spanish-speaking world. E.g. last year's rescue of Betancourt and the other hostages was a monumental shift in the situation between FARC and Uribe and dominated an entire project in my Spanish 3 class.

So, today of course we have emerging details on the first coup in Latin America in 16 years. Such a difficult event to evaluate. Which is more important, Zelaya's democratically-elected standing, or his dismal track record/popularity with the people?

Here's a fabulous tool to keep up with what's happening, including real-time info from people on the streets of Tegucigalpa. Tweet the twub #honduras, and if you don't know what that means, just follow this link and welcome to the madness of twubs. Happy exploring!

Honduras twub: http://twubs.com/honduras

26 June 2009

Follow me on Twitter

Okay, I succumbed and now you can follow me on Twitter if you care, @wandermami.

Usually, I tweet about relevant Latin American news, bilingual babies, biblical truth, curriculum development, hiking and backpacking. And of course the random events of my life that no one really cares about except my husband, lol.

19 June 2009

Aquí Estoy Yo: video oficial

The fabulous group of guys I wrote about two posts down has their official music video out:

Aquí Estoy Yo on universalmusicgroup's YouTube channel

Add to that Universal's "behind the scenes" video including interviews and you've got a solid class's worth of material. All the guys are from different countries and their accents show it (and Fonsi even talks about it). Fonsi's Spanish is way rapid at times but there's something in there for everyone. Any Spanish 1 student should pick up on Syntek's "somos todos amigos" and Spanish 2 students can find a lot in the imperfect/preterite (also other levels--who doesn't need practice with that?).

A new group on my radar

Yesterday I was watching the Today Show (while feeding Zoe, our morning ritual) and caught a segment on a group I never heard of but who apparently won a grammy. They're called Ozomatli and they sing a lot in English, some in Spanglish, and some in Spanish. I found this song on YouTube:
La Gallina
The fact that Universal labels it "clean version" gives me some pause, but I read the lyrics and watched the video and didn't see any reason for concern. I don't really understand it--is la gallina his girlfriend and someone's taken her and he wants her back? So I'm probably missing something--see what you think and let me know.

08 June 2009

Two months later, back to the blogosphere (with a companion)

Wow, what a hiatus! I definitely didn't intend to be absent that long. But I have a good reason. Two weeks before the end of school--what timing, Zoe!

The last month of my pregnancy it was crazy hard just to get up and go to school in the morning--and I was in assignment overdrive, trying to get all my students' necessary work assigned and done early, just in case. And the just in case came in handy. The day after I gave most of my final exams, Friday May 9, I had a migraine so bad my midwife told me to come in for evaluation re: preecclampsia. Behold, 5 cm dilated and didn't even know I was in labor. They didn't let me leave. Slept there that night and had Zoe at 12:35 the next day. She's muy preciosa! But that left me with a newborn to care for, all those assignments to grade, and a substitute to supply with ideas & plans. Ugh. I don't remember working so hard since the week my master's thesis was due

But, now it's officially summer and la pequeñita and I are hanging out at home trying to snatch sleep whenever we can. The one parent/one language thing we're doing is both easier and harder than I thought it would be (how on earth do you say burp cloth? and what about when daddy doesn't understand anything?)--maybe I'll blog more about that later.

In any case, I'm back.

I intend to use the blog this summer kind of selfishly, to help myself keep track of what I'm working on for next year. Since it is summer I don't anticipate a lot of need for the blog or much traffic but hey, it'll be there for the next go round.

First tasks on the list:
1 begin reading & charting vocabulary & writing quizzes for Ciudad de las bestias por Isabel Allende for AP next year, and
2 investigate how the AP test has changed and how my 2-year-old syllabus needs to change, since I can't leave the baby to go to an AP workshop this summer. Any ideas/tips on how the AP is different or what the best new tools are--please offer them!

06 April 2009

A most fantastic performance at Premio Lo Nuestro

As I wrote in this post, No Me Doy por Vencido by Luis Fonsi is a recent favorite of mine, and Fonsi himself is quickly climbing my list of faves, particularly because of how much he loves his wife and is devoted to her, and refuses to fall into the seductive/hunter/lust-after-these-other-bellezas trap often laid for him by reporters and shows.

So, when I found out that in last month's Premio Lo Nuestro awards, he performed the song, and then sang his new song Aquí Estoy Yo with Aleks Syntek, David Bisbal, and Noel Schajris, I had to find the videoclip. And it's definitely worth watching.

The heroes speak Español

Team USA continued its amazing run on the road to the 2010 World Cup by defeating Trinidad & Tobago last week in Nashville (one of my students went--I'm so jealous!). Of course, Univisión carried the highlights, including brief clips of 3 of the team's stars, including Landon Donovan, speaking Spanish.

Whatever it takes to convince my kids that el bilingüismo is not only possible, it's muy chévere.

A brilliant pair of songs contrasting por/para

In Spanish 3 these days we're looking at the por/para contrasts and for this I like to use two songs that nicely illustrate this unique difference.

The first is Solo por ti by Josh Groban. Yes, some students won't like it because he is a classical singer, but it's a beautiful song. Incidentally, also an excellent illustration of conditional tense, both normal and irregular. It's only available on sappy photo shows on YouTube, but you can listen to it for free at imeem.

The second song is Solo para ti by Camila. What could be better than two songs, exact same title except for the por/para switch? Perfect! Careful with the video, though--there are serious issues w/it (brief thong shot, sadomasochism, & sex scene). Play the song, skip the video. :)

Useless grammar I used to teach

There are a couple of grammar issues I used to teach and I've since decided such explicit instruction on these points is a waste of time. By this, I mean that given the time we have with our students, and what they're really capable of using in fluent speech/writing, explaining the grammatical terms and issues to them isn't going to help their fluency.

One is the personal a. In my experience, you can tell a student all you want that you have to put an a before an object that is a person, but the student will still say veo mi mamá unless they have an overactive monitor, à la Krashen.

The other one is on my radar right now because I'm supposed to be teaching it now, following the sequence in the textbook I loosely use as a guideline, EMC's En sus marcas. It's indirect object pronouns. Or direct ones, for that matter. Again, from my experience, I can tell my students what the difference is (because many of them can't define those in English), which ones are which in Spanish, when they go in front, when they go on the end, when they can go either place, which verbs take one or the other, and they'll still look at something like te veo and read it "you see." There's just too much English background to overcome. So, I opt to include both types of pronouns in all sorts of situations in their vocabulary phrases, so that hopefully their brain will figure out what's going on with all this me/te/etc stuff as they review their vocabulary. Also, when we look at songs, I'm constantly pointing out pronoun/verb sequences and asking what they mean. Yes, I'm asking for an English translation, which isn't what I like, but it's a quick way for me to find out if they know what's going on. And, in increasing numbers, they really do.

If they know that nos ama means he loves us, what do I care if they can define a direct object pronoun? I'll leave that up to their English teacher.

02 April 2009

Adding some links--check 'em out

I added some links to my 'communicative tools' and 'communicative bloggers' sections. Check out Wanna Jugar with Migo, a fabulous blog by a mom & grandmother who are bringing up their kids/grandkids bilingual. (I had a professor who'd go crazy analyzing that codeswitching, lol.) The links and tools and ideas people come up with amaze me! I swiped two other amazing links from their blog--Spanglish Baby (WHY did I not know about this before??) and John De Mado's site on his methods of making foreign language learning fun.

Regardless of the age we're teaching, you know my mantra--the beginner acquiring language is a basically a toddler with a lot of metalinguistic knowledge.

22 March 2009

Negative commands + culture

Here's a short videoclip of Hugo Chávez continuing his usual rhetoric, now against President Obama, lest anyone think there would be any change in his behavior. It's no secret in my classes that I'm no fan of Chávez (or Obama for that matter, but I digress). Fortunately he provides us with lots of fodder for keeping up on Latin American politics and staying amused at the same time. I can't wait to see what circus act he'll pull at the Summit of the Americas. Anyway, in addition to providing some cultural material, the clip uses several negative usted commands. Negative commands is what Chávez does best, after all. ;-)

Here's a question to mull over: how many high school Spanish students do you think can name one Latin American president?

Mine can name at least two--Chávez and Uribe. I need to work on that. They need to know the presidents of Mexico, Ecuador, and Argentina as well if I want to say they're really up-to-date on their politics in the Americas.

Winds of change

This really has nothing directly to do with Spanish class but I just have to jump up and down (virtually, of course) and publicize that I HAVE INTERNET!!

We haven't had internet at home for almost two years, and we just got it last night. It has a lot to do with my pregnancy and me being able to come home right after school knowing I can accomplish internet-related work from the comfort of my couch (with my swollen feet up, of course). So yay for us!

/unrelated exultation

16 March 2009

Our students aren't the only ones who have speaking problems!

Want to make your students feel better about their Spanish?

Show them this clip (or part of it, if you need to avoid certain clothing issues b/c of your class makeup). The reality competition "Nuestra Belleza Latina" just kicked off 5 participants because they failed a dictation test. The part where the girl says that she's not worried about the test because her Spanish has improved "bastanto" is my favorite. LOL.

Good target features in here too, from Spanish 1 on up. Nice repetitions of "no puedo" and also a couple different uses of darse por vencida which is something we've just been looking at in Spanish 3.

12 March 2009

Activity: News interaction (present perfect)

I just did this with my Spanish 2 students and was surprised at how well it worked.

I went to Google news and typed in a couple of our newsy vocab words from recent weeks--like choque and testigo--and also the helping verb 'han.' I printed out 3 articles (it was 2 pages front and back) and made enough copies to have 1 for every 2 students. In class my students went through and marked with 3 separate colors 1) words that looked familiar but they didn't know them and they weren't in our vocab, 2) words they happen to know from Spanish 1 or experience or cognates, and 3) words that are directly from our vocabulary.

It was cool to watch. As they worked through the article, they negotiated the meaning of it rather well. And these weren't learner Spanish articles. My students said how surprised they were at how much color there was on the page--and how much they knew.

I tried this also with my freshman using a website I just found, a 'learn Spanish' page from the BBC. We've been working with juega and puede lately so I chose an article about soccer in Colombia, two of my favorite topics. I really wanted to use the audio, but the announcer often sounds like a robot. It might work better for you. Anyway, I overheard something from one of my students who always feels behind and like she doesn't understand because she's never had any Spanish before, and typically her grades are lower than the others'. She said to her partner, "Hey, I can speak Spanish!" The joy in her voice was so apparent! I asked her, "What did you say?" and she repeated it for me. It was so empowering for them to find out how much they knew if they didn't look at something and decide it was too hard so they were going to give up. I really had no idea this exercise would turn out this well. I recommend it. :o)

09 March 2009

A new smash hit with a subjunctive benefit

Hey, my title rhymes. :-D

Luis Fonsi has a new(ish) song out that actually hit the Billboard Top 100. It's kind of slow but very catchy. The song is called No Me Doy Por Vencido, and incidentally the video is pretty good too (and 100% legal, yay!). In one part in the chorus, the verb 'buscar' triggers 3 subjunctive verbs because he doesn't know if the woman he's looking for exists or not. Enjoy it and share!

A shout out for Jacob & Joshua

I've been pretty sketchy lately in all areas, trying to be 7 months pregnant and teach full-time and be a good wife etc. So the blog has dropped a bit off the radar but I wanted to come on and post a few quick updates. One is the story test below. Another is to give serious props to one of my sophomores, Jacob, for creating my very cool logo for me and to my husband, who sized & colored it and put it in the blog. THANKS GUYS!

El campesino y la princesa (a Spanish 3 story test, with a bit of subjunctive)

Today I gave my 3rd quarter story test in Spanish 3. It's about a peasant and a princess who get married despite the facts that they just met and her father doesn't approve. It uses a lot of the vocab we've worked on in Spanish 3 this quarter. There's a mistake on the question part--I left a de out I think--but if there's anything else I blame it on sleep deprivation, lol.

20 February 2009

More interactive websites, courtesy of my students

I'm all about sharing free activities we've found on the internet as opposed to paying a ton of money for not-very-useful curriculum supplements. The internet worksheet project my Spanish 2 students are currently working on has taken them in some really fun directions. They've come up with stuff I don't know I ever would have thought of. I just had to take some time in class this week to play around with them.

New favorites this week:
Hotwheels Mexico -- fun games
Crayola Mexico -- it's better than their US site
Build-a-Bear US/Español -- the games are in English but it's fun to look around at the animals. And the ecards are in Spanish.

Try them out with your class and see what happens. You might think such sites are too kiddie for high schoolers, but I can't reiterate enough how much context children's material gives them, and how their success in understanding and fun with playing with things will motivate them to like it.

19 February 2009

A product I love

EMC Paradigm has a product out called SymTalk. The part I use is a set of 256 symbol cards that are magnetic. (I requested a magnetic board specifically to use this and my school got me both, thank you Whitefield!) The cards illustrate various concepts and words without translation. On mine, the word is there in Spanish, but it's very small at the top--you can't see it unless you're right next to it.

The cards come with a training DVD but the way EMC designed this to be taught, as a curriculum, is pretty forced in my opinion. I think for students it would get old very fast. However, as a support product it works great. For example, this morning I put up the illustrations of phrases with tiene, and also the illustrations of the phrases with está that my students learned much earlier this year. We went over what all of them meant, from tiene sed to está triste, and then my students had to look in a children's book (they each had one) to find an illustration of someone or something that showed that feeling/condition. It was a good review of está, and reinforcement of pairing tiene with concepts we use be for in English, and there was no textbook and no English involved.

Trust me--this one's worth a curriculum request!

18 February 2009

Good stories for commands

Here are a couple of good stories to use when teaching commands.

En aquel prado is a book I actually start using the first week of Spanish 1 to practice numbers, but the best use of it is for commands. The most repetition is in uds and nosotros commands, although with the first animal there is a tú command. Fun to get a little loco with and make animal noises and change your voice for the baby animals. What happens is, the mom tells the babies (in increasing numbers) to do something, and then they all say "Let's ----!" Wonderfully repetitive.

¡Muy bien, Fergus! is a good one for tú commands. Everyone can relate with trying to train a dog. There are a good 5 or 6 commands in there, at least. And it's cute. :)

Incidentally, if you can put up with RBD, their Pepsi commercial from Christmas before last also has a lot of tú commands. And telling RBD's story to teenagers is always fun & funny. Univision has a couple of good videos showing teenagers marching in protest, in tears, against their breakup. SO funny.

17 February 2009

a story for imperf. vs. pret. and subjunctive influence

Here's a book you can get for $4 on Amazon that is great for at least two things--imperfect vs. pret (which we call aba/ía verbs and sudden past verbs in my class), and subjunctive influence (which we call verbs that show something's influencing them): La Gallinita Roja. It's bilingual on Amazon, I think, but mine is monolingual--I dislike bilingual books in my classroom.

The past verb switch is beautiful--this is the way things always were, then "one morning..." and it's preterite from then on.

There's no subjunctive for influence in the book, but after I read the book to the class (with lots of motions and questions, of course), they made a six-frame comic strip, choosing 6 of the 9 things the red hen did or didn't want the friends to do. They had to put them in order and illustrate them lightly so I would know they knew the meaning. In each frame, the hen had to say "Quiero que..." or "Necesito que..." or something similar that they've had in their vocab recently, and then change the verb accordingly.

Interactive websites: practicing house/location/color vocab

If you have a way to project a webpage somewhere in your room, you've got to check out es.barbie.com. We did this in Spanish 1 today to practice house vocabulary, but you could use it for so many things. We also did the makeover part of it to practice colors. It's amazing how much they can pick up off a website just from context because they spend so much time online! Also, I have to tell you that my freshman boys were almost more involved in this than the girls. For whatever reason--because it was girls or whatever--they were calling out how her hair should be, what color eye shadow, etc. It was a lot of fun.

Remember, if we frustrate them, they'll give up, and that's the blunt truth of it.

13 February 2009

Classical education: a waste of time?

I've long been of the opinion that classical education is all well and good, but the focus on Latin is, for almost everyone, a complete waste of time. (The English teacher at my school would strongly disagree. He and his wife are fans of ancient Greek/Latin.) I am not a fan. I even wrote a paper on this for a book review in college about 10 years ago, when I first learned what classical education is, and I've not seen anything since then to change my mind. Learning a romance language will do for you anything Latin can do for you, with the added benefit that you can communicate with hundreds of millions of people, which is supposedly what we're all about. Community is one of the 5 C's, right? So where exactly is the community of Latin speakers? So whenever I come across a good example to support my opinion, I usually express it to the few people I know involved in classical schools or of that mindset.

For one thing, I was watching Braveheart the other day, and there was some scene where the person was speaking Latin, and I understood every word.

Also, a couple of nights ago on Jeopardy, there was a whole category on love words related to Latin. I answered every one correctly, including the one referring to the word 'ardent,' which none of the contestants could answer. When I asked the same question in my Spanish 3 class, some of them answered it also.

It's called a dead language because no one can speak it. As communicators let's focus on the living, shall we? And leave the dead for those whose hearts beat for ancient literature and medical/scientific terminology.

Subjunctive for doubt: Story, song, activity

One of my problems with standard curriculum is they can't provide enough variety in activities focused on one issue. They try, I'll give the writers credit for that, but there are only so many textbook/workbook exercises you can design to elicit subjunctive for doubt. And really, do we believe that those cheesy textbook videos offer enough patterned input for them to understand anything except how bad the acting is?

So I don't use a textbook. My lesson activities include stories, drawings, writing, songs, and, occasionally, a game. This is what we've been doing for subjunctive by reason of a verb following an expression of doubt.

Two students in the class were talking. A boy and a girl. Who are they? (the students decide) They aren't big though. They're small. They're not in high school. They're in preschool. It was a long time ago.
What were they talking about? Their hermanos? No. Their mamás? No. They were talking about their papás.
The boy said, "MY papá goes to China every month."
The girl said, "I doubt that your papá goes to China every month. MY papá has 15 birds in his bedroom."
And we continued with different phrases. I organized it by putting two speech bubbles beside each character on the board. The top speech bubbles were for what they said about their papás. The bottom speech bubbles were what they said to doubt the other person's statement. We used places around our area and vocab we've worked on lately, but you can make up anything. As long as it's interesting and relevant, they'll stay focused. And mine picked up the pattern by the 4th or 5th doubt statement and were able to change the verbs themselves. Our statements were:
MY papá...
...lives in Bernheim Forest
...knows President Obama
...gives me chocolates for breakfast
...dies when he eats shellfish
...can walk 15 miles
...can drive his Corvette 100mph

(At the end we added that they both said "I want your dad to come to Show n Tell" to rehash a subjunctive for influence example.)

The next day, our song was No Sé Si Pueda by Fonseca. You can listen to the song on YouTube but there's no video for it. It's a good example of subjunctive for doubt.

The day after that, we played "two truths and a lie." I divided the class in half, and each person wrote 3 statements, 2 true and 1 false, in no particular order. (I collected these afterward for a 10-point completion/effort grade.) The team got a point if the other team could not guess which one was the lie. Then, we put "dudamos que..." in front of the one the majority had thought was the lie, and they told me what else in the sentence had to change and why.

10 February 2009

A good story for 'tiene'

Usborne books has a series of books that are good to read when practicing tiene. I bought a couple to use with my baby--one is Este no es mi osito and the other is Este no es mi dinosaurio. They're touch 'n feel board books, but they work fine in a classroom too! The things that the osito and dinosaurio have are low-frequency (some I didn't know) but the statement/reason sequence of 'este no es mi osito'/'tiene' was easy enough for my Spanish 1 students to comprehend as soon as we started tiene, and the pictures make it clear what the rest of the sentence means. My targets were no es and tiene anyway, so I didn't care if they remembered how to say "shiny spines."

Incidentally, the little mouse is in a different spot on every page, so it's perfect to practice prepositions of place. I ask, "¿Dónde está el ratoncito?" and they tell me, "Debajo de la boca del dinosaurio" or whatever. Fun times!

09 February 2009

A song for subjunctive/nosotros commands

There's a really odd technopop group out of Argentina that became somewhat a suprise hit in the last two years. The band is called Miranda! and I use one of their songs--once a year only in Spanish 2 and 3--for 'we' commands. I really don't like technopop, and this song gets on my nerves like no other, and I dislike the whole hidden-love theme (although the video clears that up a bit). I'd rather listen to Enrique sing Dímelo than listen to this one. But, I've never seen anything with better lyrics to show the use of subjunctive in 'we' commands, and some of my students actually do like it. So, if you can stand it, here it is--Yo te diré by Miranda! The music video is actually quite funny; think Grease meets West Side Story meets Romeo and Juliet. Enjoy.

A story for demonstratives

I've come up with a story that in both Spanish 1 and 2 has worked really well with teaching demonstratives. We've worked with those quite a bit for the past couple of weeks, and I've been amazed at how fast my students have become consistent and proficient at using them.

Side note: A couple of veteran Spanish teachers and I were talking recently, and they were remarking how 1/2 hour once per week (our middle school Spanish schedule) is a complete waste of time. I said I thought it was of some benefit, because I could see how my Spanish 1 students came in to my class after 3 years of that schedule and were advanced in their ability to use verbs like soy and estoy. One of the teachers said, "Oh, you can teach that in two days."
Yes, you can teach it in two days. But the students will not use it consistently accurately after that. They just flat won't. This is what's wrong with us--we care more about moving through material than we do about whether our students can use the material. I had a Spanish 3 student with very high aptitude write yo tiene on his blog last week and I could have smacked him. What is our goal here, finishing a book? Assigning a grade? Or enabling them to communicate with hundreds of millions of people who have something to teach them about life and the world?

Okay, so the story:

There is a girl, her name is Goldilocks, she has blond hair and she's however old the students decide (reviewing beginner phrases). She's wearing a (color) dress. Is she sad? No, she's happy. She has a friend, her friend is an animal, he's a little bear, and his name is Charlie.

(I draw these two on the left side of the board, and then draw three long arcs at about equal widths across the board to indicate space close to them, a bit farther, and farthest away.)

Goldilocks wants lots of things. Charlie has lots of things in his house. Charlie offers her these things. Goldilocks wants soup. Charlie says, 'Do you want this soup'? Does Goldilocks want this soup? No, this soup is too hot. (repeat for that soup, which is too cold) (repeat for that soup over there, which is perfect)
(repeat for spoons--we say one for each hand just so we have it plural--two are too red, two are too green, and two are perfectly yellow, the color of her hair)
(repeat for bread--one is too big, another too small, the third just right)

We just did this in Spanish 1 because we're working on kitchen/food vocabulary, but you can use anything. In Spanish 2 we were working on dropping the noun to get esto, ésos, etc, and we used gorra, pantuflas, and something else that escapes me at the moment.

Believe it or not, once you've gotten high-schoolers to accept the fact that where a second language is concerned, they're like kindergarteners, they'll tolerate just about anything--including nursery rhymes!