Comprehensible News

12 Feb

I’m just starting a project that I’ve been planning for a long time and wanted to share it by with you.

Overview: My AP Spanish students will produce a newscast for lower level Spanish classes in the district.

Objective: To encourage novice Spanish learners by providing comprehensible news pertaining to local events.

The class is divided into groups of 4 (one group has 3). In each group, there is a writer, an editor, a reporter, and a producer (I will do the production role for the group with 3). Our district has Office 365, and all students already have accounts so all work is done in this platform. We will have a new broadcast every five class days (two weeks):

  • Day 1, they plan the topic in their groups and create an outline together. The writer takes the outline and uses it to write the script for the newscast in Office 365, saved in our group drive. This extends to Day 2 because the writer is given two class periods to write the script.
  • Day 3, I give each group a printed double-spaced copy of the script. As a group, they proofread and make editing marks on the page. They also make a list of all terms that will be difficult for novice Spanish students to understand (because they are not cognates or common words). The editor takes the page home and uses it to make all needed changes to the shared document. The producer takes the list home and starts finding clipart for those terms and storing it in the shared folder.
  • Day 4 is production day. We are using Touchcast on the iPad, which has a newsroom background and a teleprompter. I have a green screen that I keep in my classroom. For each group, we load the script into the teleprompter, practice, adjust the prompter speed, then record. In their groups, they watch the newscast and add in the clipart that they producer stored. *In Touchcast, they can add pop-up images to the screen during the newscast to aid in comprehension. Like when the reporter says “equipo”, a football team image pops up accompanied by the word “el equipo”. It is then posted to the Video Channel we have created in Office 365, that is accessible to all teachers and students in the district, but is not viewable by the general public.
  • Day 5 is for reflection and communicating with our audience. I have the Video channel linked to a Yammer group (in Office 365, Yammer is a lot like Facebook or Edmodo). All comments to the videos go directly to the group where our news team can respond. The news team will also post in the Yammer group, viewers what they would like us to report on next – any important games, concerts, etc coming up that we should attend?

Now, a few additional notes:

  • Instead of State Standards, our AP classes have a set of themes and contexts that they have to be proficient at discussing. They have to use that list to determine their newscast topics and keep a record of what they have covered. In this way, we are using the project to cover the required content, not deviating from it.
  • This will not take the place of regular “instruction”. Our school has a block system and I see them every other day. This means that a five-day schedule will produce a new video biweekly, more or less. Total class time spent on the video will be Day 1: 20 min, Day 3: 20 min, Day 4: 60 min, Day 5: 20 min. Our classes are 90 minutes long, so we are continuing the things we regularly do in class in the remaining time.
  • I want them to have a say in their jobs and groups. On Day 5, they turn in a page to tell me what jobs they have done and rank their preferences of tasks in order. I will try my best to give people the jobs they want and make it fair to all by making them share jobs that are wanted by more than one person. On the next Day 1, I tell them their jobs, and they form their groups making sure that there is one of each job in the group.
  • Grading – all grades are based on individual performance. I do not have a “group grade” for anything. They are all receiving grades for the work they produce according to their assigned tasks and speaking grades based on what I personally observe when they are collaborating.


We did a Fake News report last week to try it out and it went great! We then formed the new groups and they used the AP Themes/Contexts to decide on the next report. One group wants to focus on Science/Tech and Medicine and will do a report on some new genome that was discovered… Another group has members of our school’s Special Olympics club and wants to share it with the other schools in the district (using the Community theme and Volunteer context). Another group is focusing on Traditions and will compare Carnaval and Mardi Gras, and share pics from the Rosca de Reyes we had in January (to compare to a Mardi Gras King Cake).



Afrolatinos famosos

2 Feb

I was asked to share this unit… In the month of February, I try to incorporate a unit related to Afrolatino culture and history.

For my Spanish II classes, we have done this project: Popcorn Bag project I designed this so that I can incorporate what they learn into the curriculum (the grammar focus).

For my higher levels, we focus on the literary devices that are unique to la poesía afrolatina. We create a “Coffee shop poetry reading” setting on a selected date and they read their chosen poems with spirit and rhythm. Here is the document: La poesía afrolatina.

Here is a recording I made with a student who did a really good job of reading: Video

Other topics of interest:

  • Music:
    • Musical influences from Afrolatinos (from Cuban Jazz to Reggaeton)
    • Music of Chocquibtown:
    • Only in New York: Machito & His Afro-Cubans (2nd chapter of the DVD, (viewable on YouTube, purchasable from PBS, and available in Spanish).
    • AfroCuban Jazz and its influence on the American music scene of the 1940’s
  • Garifuna:
    • Origin of los Garífuna: a group of shipwrecked slaves who intermarried with local natives on the island of St. Vincent, only to be deported to the Central American coast in the late eighteenth century.
    • New York Times Article, Being Garifuna: 
    • Excellent documentary of Garifuna: – Follow with questions: ¿Qué deben hacer los Garífuna para seguir conservando su cultura tras las nuevas generaciones? ¿Si tú fueras Garífuna, que sería lo más importante para conservar la cultura tras las nuevas generaciones?

We have all been hearing about Project-Based Learning.  The main idea behind PBL is that it is inquiry-based, relevant, and that students are learning through the process rather than learning material and putting it into a project.

There are some topics to consider when planning a Project-Based Learning unit:

  • Relevance to the student: Focus on raising awareness and promoting an appreciation of diversity. Encourage the students to think deliberately on issues of racism and education and determine how this relates to them.
  • Content: At the core of PBL is content.
    • Read the current standards and pick out those that apply to your unit.  It is very easy to match standards to units such as this one.
    • Scrutinize your curriculum map and find areas in which your unit will be used to teach the content.
  • Driving question: This is an open-ended question that will guide them as they learn more about La cultura afrolatina.
  • Hook: Think of a video with great impact that will gain their interest. Use an image that will capture their attention as part of a lesson.  Show several images of Hispanic people, with varying appearances, and ask the students to identify the ones who are “hispanic”.  Discuss their responses and what conceptions we have of what Hispanics should “look like.”
  • Product: Think of ways that the product can be shared with a public audience outside of the classroom. They should think on what they learned and find ways to share that information with others.
  • Voice and Choice: Can you offer a variety of product options in your project? What other options can you give them to encourage ownership?
  • 21st century skills:
    • Find ways to let the students collaborate on the project, either making individual projects or working as a class to a final goal.
    • Share articles about the current trends regarding recognition of African roots in Latin American countries.  Students use critical thinking to plan ways of raising awareness and contemplate why it is important.
    • Most importantly, the students should be communicating in Spanish as much as possible.
  • Learn more here: Afrolatinos: The untaught story documentary series

Movie Talk – BunBun

30 Sep

I made this for an impromptu lesson in Spanish – teaching verbs like “gustar” in context. It has some questions in it – first I am answering them, and elaborating a bit, then I have the students doing it in small groups.

So, I made another with all words removed so that other languages can use it or it can be incorporated into other #movietalks . It’s just my bunny’s daily activities (mostly eating), but the length is just enough to hold attention for a good CI lesson. No words:


10 Jun


I created these stickers for my AP Spanish students as they finish the year. I told them to put them on any name tags, etc whenever they can. You never know when this little sticker might really help someone who needs it. And I want my students to know THEY can help someone with language because they really DO speak Spanish now. 🙂 You can print them here: hablo espanol stickers Using Avery stickers 6450.

Quick prep for a movie

19 Jan

This is a movie lesson that involves lots of discussion on part of the students, and very little prep on part of the teacher.  My AP class used this activity with the Argentinean film, Anita.

The students copy six questions from the board before the movie, leaving space for answers.

Describe a prominent character in this segment of the movie.
Tell what a character is feeling at this moment.
Explain both sides of a conflict in this part of the movie.
Make a prediction.
Find a connection, something you have in common with the movie.
Express your opinion about something going on in this part of the movie.

The questions can be modified for lower levels and would be in the target language.

The students are arranged in groups. I pause the movie periodically, and each student rolls the die to determine which question to answer in their group.  They don’t write answers yet, just share responses. I listen to their discussions. After the movie, they write answers for each question, to include a 7th question about the overall theme of the movie.

Site Share: Digital Collaboration Board

10 Jan is a site I’ve started using for collaboration. Imagine a big poster on the wall and everyone is throwing sticky notes onto it. This site uses the same concept, but digitally. Many sites share this concept, but I prefer because it’s easy to use and doesn’t require logins from anyone. We can all operate this site from whatever tech I can get my hands on that day – in a lab, on laptops, personal smartphones, iPads, or iPads. (In my school, it’s easiest to let them use phones, but have a school set of iPods on hand for anyone who needs it).

Open the site and create a board. Copy the link (or click the share button to get a QR code) and share it with the class. They go to the link, click anywhere on the board, and write.

With no login required, you can opt to let students post anonymously or tell them to title each post with their name, initials, or numbers you’ve assigned. Alternatively, if you have a class that may post unwanted material, you can create an account and require each participant to sign in with a name.

Uses I’ve enjoyed in class: 

  • Group or class brainstorming: The group throws their posts on the board then reads all of them to get idea of what to write. There can be a class board or small groups can each have their own board.
  • Feedback: During skits and performances, the audience submits positive feedback for the performers or general statements about the characters (Marcos es muy consentido).
  • FAQ’s: I particularly like using this one when I am explaining a project. When I stop to answer questions as I am explaining, it takes so much longer and I lose their attention. I tell them to post questions as I go along, then I address the questions at the end. By the time I get to the questions, they’ve usually already deleted their question if I answered it in my explanation or if they see someone else already asked it.
  • Predictions: During a movie in class, stop it periodically to ask a prediction question and allow time for them to post before moving on.
  • Comprehension check: After introducing a new concept, ask them to try it on their own and read the responses. If they’re anonymous, this gives them opportunity to find out if they are getting it right without exposing their possible errors to the class.
  • Redaction: 

padletMy most recent use, allowing me to correct their statements in real time before they have to say them out loud for an activity. We were about to conduct celebrity interviews and they had to create questions using “ser” and “estar”. I wanted their questions to be correct beforehand – I didn’t want to correct them during the interviews. One option was to have them turn their questions in and make corrections during my abundant free time. I chose instead to create a board and had them post their questions for redaction. We created a system in which I would move it to the right once it was correct so they could copy it on paper and delete it.

The interviews went very well. Four people had to come to the front of the room (join the panel), acting as the celebrities and answering questions from the “audience”. We then switched the celebrities out two more times during the activity, giving more students opportunity to do the answering. We used Enrique Iglesias, Manny Ramirez, Jennifer Lopez, and Sofia Vergara (because there is a page in our text that starts the activity out with brief bios of these people). We followed up the next class with 3-5 minutes (real) interviews of these four people. The students said they like the “real-time” feedback and knowing the questions were correct before starting the interviews.

Post a comment with other ideas you can think of for a digital collaboration board.

BTS after winter break

3 Jan

uvas2On the first day back, I want to share the tradition of eating 12 grapes along with the 12 bells at midnight. However, those of us with more than 100 students have no intentions of bringing 12 grapes per kid so they can try it out.

Instead, I bring in four sets of the grapes for each class and get four volunteers to demonstrate the ñom-ñomming of a grape with each chime.

Here’s the video we will use to demonstrate. (Let the volunteers know to not start devouring grapes until they actually see the numbers counting down on the screen.) *Update: the video was removed after a while. Just be sure to search You Tube after January 1 each year to find the latest posted clip. Here is an example (if it doesn’t get removed): 

Also, if you Google-Image doce uvas, you can find a variety of ways to set them up elegantly for the class to see before they are eaten.

This can be followed up with a range of activities, depending on the level. Have them draw 12 circles on a page and write a 2016 bendición on each one (dinero, salud, salud de mi familia, buenas notas, etc…)

Or have a higher level do a 3P’s chart (productos, prácticas, y perspectivas) after seeing the video and others that explain various New Year’s traditions and make a comparison between what they see and their own traditions.

¡Feliz año nuevo a todos y les deseo mucha risa y felicidad en 2016!


Empowering all women

James River Film Journal

Writing on the art of film & film as art.

Junior Viking News

All things BCEMS!

Mi clase de español

Mi clase es tu clase

Mi Clase es Su Clase

Sharing ideas from one Spanish teacher to another.

senor fernie

a journey into the world of comprehensible input


4 out of 5 dentists recommend this site

Las clases de Stilson

Traveling the proficiency path, one step at a time

Murin's Messages

Just another weblog

Lugar para pensar

A place to think about my language lessons, and how to make them better

Somewhere to Share

Ideas, some bright, from my classroom.

Señora B

Spanish Teacher and Learner

Facilitating language acquisition through comprehensible input

La Clase de la Señora Dentlinger

My journey to become a better Spanish teacher

Profesora McLellan

Ideas for using iPad apps in the Foreign Language Classroom

Resources and ideas for language teachers

Ideas and resources for teaching Modern Foreign Languages

La Maestra Bilingue

Resources for the bilingual teacher