Thursday, July 19, 2018

Puntos de Partido -- Using movie trailers to start conversations -- Esteban

Esteban is an award-winning 2016 movie about a young Cuban boy with a dream of learning to play the piano.  The trailer featured here separates each scene with a black screen and the text: "Persigue tus sueños."

Esteban faces multiple obstacles that might prevent him from achieving his goal: (1) the piano teacher is a curmudgeon who says that a boy like Esteban would play one of his pianos over his dead body, and he threatens to call the police when the boy actually does play a few notes; (2) Esteban's father is not willing to pay for the lessons, and tells his son to study the maracas, which is much cheaper;  (3) Esteban's mother discovers the lengths to which her son will go to learn to play when she finds that he has obtained money to pay for his first lesson sneakily, if not dishonestly.  If only she hadn't spent money to buy him new shoes, he would not have had to resort to such methods,  he says, under his breath.  You can find a link to the text of the trailer here, and a handout with comprehension questions and conversation starters here (in progress).

The two-minute trailer has lots of themes for class discussion, although, with its Cuban Spanish, it might merit several showings to be sure students understand the dialogue.  A fantastic bonus in the YouTube version of the trailer is the comments section, where there is a post about piano lessons being free in Cuba, thus making the movie's premise unrealistic.  Other users chime in, pointing out that this is the case only for the elite, and that not everyone has this free access.  This would make a wonderful jumping off point for further research and discussion about equality and equity in all cultures, including our own.

The movie itself is not available on DVD or Blue-ray, but will certainly be added to my library as soon as it comes out.  It is currently on HBO and Cinemax.

Comment below how you use this trailer in class!


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Playing with kids' emotions

¿Qué pasa, calabaza?
     We played my one of my kids' favorite games in Spanish 2 today.  It's called "¿Qué pasa, calabaza?" and it's played like Apples to Apples®.  The situations are relatively simple, so my Spanish 2 kiddos don't have much trouble with the vocabulary.  I walk around during the game, though, to help them with any words thy don't understand.
     I like to have each group of four deal me in, so I can play a round with each of them.  That way I can be sure that each group understands the rules and is speaking Spanish instead of English.  Besides, it is a super fun game for me, too!

The judge tries to pick the most appropriate emotion.
A student looks over her cards to pick the best emotion.
  Everyone starts with five emotion cards. The judge picks a situation card and reads it aloud.  Players pick one of their emotion cards to fit the situation and then the judge picks a winner.  Each card has a boy and a girl illustration and the appropriate masculine or feminine form of the emotion, so they just have to read the card.

     Emotions include phrases with estar and tener.  My kids were engaged right up to the bell!  You can purchase and download the game at my store, here:¿Qué pasa calabaza? 

    TESTIMONIAL:  This was exactly what I was looking for. No joke, I came to TPT looking for emotions and situations to go with them for my mixed-grade enrichment Spanish co-op class. To make it like Apples to Apples was genius. The kids really enjoyed playing the game. My 5 year old son and I played it our way too...and he usually resists learning Spanish! Wonderful all around.

     GREAT NEWS!  As much as I love this game, the artwork is not top notch.  I have recently commissioned professional artwork from Silly Pillies, so an update of the game is coming soon!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"¡Lo veo!" An introduction to Direct Object Pronouns

I love my Spanish 2 class.  They make  me laugh, and, amazingly enough, they still have energy at the end of the day.  6th period can be a drag for everyone, even the teacher, if everyone is exhausted and listless.  Not so for this group!  And in case anyone ever asks you, yes, high school students still love games!

Today we reviewed direct object pronouns.  My favorite way to present this grammar is with a game of "Lo veo!"  The vocabulary we are working with currently is for traveling. (My text is Avancemos! 2).  I recommend using your current vocabulary, just because it is another chance for students to make a visual and emotional connection to new words.  Of course, you can do the activity with any four words.

Here are my words:
Masculine/singular: el avión                       Feminine/singular: la auxiliar de vuelo
Masculine/plural: los pasaportes               Feminine/plural: las maletas

And here are the objects: 
Los objetos para jugar ¡Lo veo!
The doll and the plane were Dollar Store finds. The doll has a paper hat and some PanAm wings glued on.  The suitcases are novelty candy containers, painted and decorated with paper "travel stickers."  The passports are actually just color copies stapled on to recycled paper.

I took pictures of each object and put them on my SmartBoard.  Then I hid each object somewhere in plain sight in the room. When students entered they saw these phrases on the board:
El "guión" para la actividad
We talked about each picture and wrote the words in the first blank on each line.  I had the students look around the room to find each real object as we put the pictures in place.  Whoever saw it first called out, "Lo veo!" (Or, of course, whatever phrase was correct), and then got to bring the item to the front of the room.  We filled in the second blank with the correct direct object pronoun.  In the end, it looked like this:
¡Listos para jugar!
And then we were ready to play!  One student left the room.  The class first decided to hide the passports in plain sight and we put the rest away.  The student came back in and had to go through the list, asking about each item in turn: "¿El avión?"  And the class replied, "No lo veo."
                           "¿La auxiliar de vuelo?"                  "No la veo."
                           "¿Los pasaportes?"                        "¡Los veo!"        And the game was on.

The student had to walk around the room, asking, "¿Los pasaportes?", and each time the class would reply, "Los veo." The closer the student got to the hiding place, the louder the class replied.  It was a blast.

Here is a final picture:  The flight attendant "hiding" on the bulletin board behind my desk.  She couldn't have been in plainer sight, but it took forever to find her.  I love it that they had to repeat such a challenging vocabulary word over and over and over again!   I think she is going to live on that board from now on!
¿La ves?

Have a happy week!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting to know you!

I change my seating arrangement  for each new lesson.  That's about every two weeks.  This year I am investing the time (even if it is in English) for students to get to know their new group members.  My students are seated in twos, with groups of four.  As soon as class starts, and they are all in their new seats, I hand out a list of questions for them to discuss.  The discussions are lively -- and, while they are not all in Spanish, I do get a lot of  "¿Cómo se dice . . .?" interaction with students, which is a good barometer or formative assessment that lets me know which students are truly dedicated to the "Say it in Spanish if you possibly can" rule.  I want them to make connections with their new groups, so I don't want this time to feel formal or graded -- except for the name learning -- I do put on the pressure there!  

I'm constantly on the lookout for good small-group ice-breaker activities so I can vary the topics and instructions for this important 5-7 minutes of class time.  For today's activities, I used an idea I found here: 40 ice-breakers for small groups.  It's a PDF that will download to your computer. 

The first question is always, "What are the names of the people in your group?"  For the rest of the questions today, we went for group records:  "Who has traveled the farthest?",  "Who has the most pets?",  "Who has the strangest hobby?" and "Who has eaten the weirdest thing?"  The students were excited to share with the whole class after they got to know one another.  I don't always take the time to process every single question, but they were so enthusiastic that today we did.  As we went around the room, I asked a question -- in Spanish, such as "Who, in your group, has traveled the farthest?" and the group members had to say the name of the person who had the group record.  They proved that they knew one another's names, and the rest of the class got a chance to learn them as well.  Then we took a moment to find out more about some of the record holders. 

It was an activity that took about 12 minutes today.  But those 12 minutes will pay off for the next two weeks!

Happy teaching!  Gotta get ready for Back to School night!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Diccionario Personal

    Last year I tried to encourage class and personal vocabulary acquisition by posting an alphabetized word wall template in my room.  After every reading we did, we talked about what words might be important to add to our customized dictionary.  We tried to pick words that had a broad application and usefulness, and that might be likely to turn up again in other contexts.

    We quickly realized that the template was very inefficient.  Every letter had the same amount of space, including K and W, which are not even native Spanish letters!

    Enter the new school year.  I remade the word wall, giving more space to more frequently used letters, and we are giving it another go.  Here is a picture of the new and improved version, with our first few vocabulary words already added: 
Spanish Word Wall, arranged according to letter frequency
    Students all have a four-page Diccionario Personal section in their interactive notebooks.  Click here for a copy if you are interested.

Have a happy weekend!

Monday, August 25, 2014

2014-15, Here We Come!

School starts this week!  I am very excited to get the school year going.  This will be my 29th group of shining, new faces.  I love that I love it so much after all these years! 

They say that students don't always remember what you teach them, but they always remember how you make them feel.  I think that goes both ways.  What I mean is, I don't remember all of my students' names, and I certainly don't remember every one of my own lessons, but as I look back over the years, I have some very specific memories of my interactions with kids. -- Most of them are positive!  :-)

One of my first great memories, and the story that I always tell new teachers, happened in 1986, during my first year of teaching.  I was very young -- just barely 22 -- and I was teaching Spanish 1 to 7th and 8th graders.  There were students who seemed to like me and students who seemed to not-so-much.  I was very insecure, and had started to develop some "Me versus Them" feelings about some of my classes. I had wanted to be a teacher since I myself was in 7th grade.  I sometimes cried on my 45-minute drive home from school, thinking I had made a huge mistake.

One afternoon, as I was coming around my desk to begin the day's lesson, I tripped on something -- a backpack or the garbage can, I can't remember what it was.  The students who were nearby began to laugh, as was, I'm sure, natural.  In that moment, I was faced with a choice, and the insecure, shy, young part of me wanted to glare at those who were laughing -- wanted to make them show me some respect.  Thank goodness I didn't give in to that part of myself!

There were several other students who had not seen the "incident," and were wondering what was so funny.  In a freak moment of wisdom beyond my years, I did something that completely changed the way that I saw my relationship between myself and my students.  I re-enacted the clumsiness so that no one missed out on the fun.  I stopped taking myself so seriously!  It was a watershed moment, and probably the reason why I am still here 29 years later.  I can't remember those students' names, or what the lesson I was teaching them that day, but I remember in strangely vivid detail the whole scene: the tripping, the laughing, the urge to get angry, and the sudden change of heart that enabled me to recover not just my dignity for that day and that hour, but also my ability to roll with the punches - to enjoy every day no matter what it brings.

Happy 2014-2015 school year!