At the start of my teaching career, I had students pick Spanish names, solely because I liked doing it when I was in Spanish class. It helped me connect to the language, and helped me focus on Spanish when in class. Twelve years down the road, and the activity has become so much more than that, I was inspired to try using nicknames instead of solely Spanish names by Bryce Hedstrom. Read on to find out what I think can be in a "name".
Why give students Spanish nicknames?
I love this activity and find I get a lot of value from it but I would like to make the process move more quickly. Next year I am going to try it slightly differently. I plan to have students write 'I want' and their top 3 names on a half sheet of paper. I will put them all in a 'sorting hat' (yes I am borrowing this from Harry Potter) and pull student names out of the hat. We will give the names in a similar format to that described above, but I think we will be able to move more quickly this way, as I will just be pulling the next student instead of calling on students (and they all BEG to be the first, or the second, or the third to get their name.
I also plan to create a class mural with the nicknames later this year. I want each student to 'draw' their nickname and write it in Spanish on the same sheet of butcher paper, I can hang these in the halls for quite a while (and have lots of students reading compelling input as they walk through the halls).
I hope this helps you, let me know if you think of ways to improve it or extensions!
I came back from CiMidwest 2016 very early Sunday morning (early as in, my flight left at 5:30 am early). Due to timing, attending this conference was a major feat for me. It included sleeping an average of 3 to 4 hours a night several nights in a row, after one of the most tiring days of the year at school (Spanish Snow Ball tag, 20 games of tag, 12 minutes each, 500 kids. Last year I barely got off the couch all weekend after playing). Given the chance to do it all over again, I would in a heart beat. This conference was incredible, and I was very excited to be a part of it both as an attendee and as a presenter. I love learning from other teachers, and talking to them about what I am doing in the classroom. I learn so much both in sessions and as a presenter. I am even more excited to be in my classroom each time I attend something like this, I only wish I had more time so I could try all the things!!!
My first conference was this summer at IFLT 2016. I had considered attending either IFLT or NTPRS many times in the past, but the cost of a trip to a major conference had always seemed like more than I could spend. Then in an odd turn of events, I was able to use two years of teacher improvement money from my contract at once. I decided it was now or never, and registered and bought my tickets. I had heard equally amazing things about both conferences, but since NTPRS fell on the date of my 10th anniversary I chose to go to IFLT 2016. Although I expected to learn a lot from amazing people, there were a few things I didn't expect. First there were amazing presenters everywhere I turned. It was as if everyone I had been following and learning from online was in one place at the same time. It was hard to know where to go first. Not only did they all have incredibly thoughtful sessions, but they were all friendly and approachable too. They listened when people asked questions and had great advice. Coaching (mentoring by expert teachers), which seemed like it would be an intimidating experience, was also more like a warm hug. Instead of feeling like I was being reviewed, it was more about honoring the best of what each teacher did, and helping the work through difficult spots in their practice. It made me realize how nice it is to be complimented on your teaching, by others who get exactly what you are trying to achieve. The last big surprise for me was the sense of deep camaraderie I felt with the other teachers at the conference. Going to the conference without knowing anyone, I had expected to go back to my hotel room, swim, read and go to bed (as a mom to 3, eight hours of sleep and some alone time is not a bad thing). However, other than the first night of the conference, I spent each night out with people who felt more like lifelong friends then recent acquaintances. I barely slept at all, and returned home feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready to get back into the classroom. I loved the conference, and didn't think anything could possibly compare.
Although it was only a 1 day experience, I found my amazing comparison in CiMidwest 2016. The presenters were all dedicated and passionate educators with strong messages. Each session was filled with laughter, activities I could take back to my classroom, and helped me come away with a deeper understanding of my practice. The presenters were engaging, knowledgeable, and approachable. Much like IFLT, my only complaint was that I was not able to be in ALL the sessions, or talk to everyone. Maybe in the future it could be 2 days (fingers crossed)? I would love to catch all the sessions. It was also great to attend a conference closer to home; I truly hope it becomes a yearly experience, it is wonderful to collaborate with educators from across the MidWest. I am very grateful to the organizers of the conference (pictured above). I can only begin to imagine what it took to pull this off so quickly (Grant Boulanger, Haiyun Lu, Elizabeth Dentlinger, Kimberly Huegerich, Kelly Ferguson, Carla Tarini, Yinghan Xue, Marta Yedina you are incredible. Thank you for the time you dedicated to "growing our story". Below is a brief write up from each session I attended, as well as a summary of a few sessions a colleague was able to attend that I missed.
The day started out with Dr. Krashen as the key note speaker. As always when speaking, he was funny, thought provoking and informative. He spoke that morning about a few 'hot topic' discussions from the IFLT/NTPRS Facebook group. Both the need to define what CI/TPRS teachers mean with their terminology, and about the beauty of non-targeted language instruction. He raised some very interesting points. Speaking to the fact that since high frequency words naturally are the most frequently used words we use, there is not a real need to target specific structures. He also pointed out that if we create stories or activities just to practice specific aspects of the language, our story can sometimes seemed forced, or lose it's ability to create interest in our learners. After reading about this online, and listening to Dr. Krashen speak I was ready to hear more. I only wish I had been able to attend his session as well. I did not get a chance to speak with Dr. Krashen, which is probably a good thing as I stand slightly in awe of his work and probably would have been a bit tongue-tied.
Dr. Krashen's keynote speech was the perfect lead into my first session with Justin Slocum Bailey. His session: Beyond Target Structures; The Fun and the Fruits of Non-Targeted CI was the perfect way to start the day. As a presenter Justin had energy, and made a personal connection with his audience. He gave concrete ways to use students own talents to cover non-targeted CI in a stress free and fun way. In addition, he gave ways to do this even if you are tied to certain grammar or vocabulary topics. Two big takeaways from his session were, "The odds of everyone in the room being ready to acquire the same target are 0." This speaks to the need to use the language our students are both ready for, and express a desire to learn. I also loved when he shared the following, "Foreign language teachers are not constrained by set syllabi. We can use any subject matter we want to, as long as it's compelling". This is why I find this method of teaching so exciting. As long as we can use sheltered vocabulary and grammar to teach our students, the sky is the limits! Justin was a dynamic presenter, and I hope I get the chance to hear him speak again in the future.
o. Next I attended Inspiring Higher-order Thinking Using Level-appropriate Language with Carol Gaab. This session was another home-run. Carol talked about ways to inspire higher level thinking in students, even with very basic language. Incorporating her ideas will help make it much easier to show higher level thinking in class in the target language. I also think getting students thinking on this level will help them 'forget' that they are learning a new language. Allowing them to learn subconsciously. One of the things Carol said that really struck me, is "Less is More! Being right is not all it's cracked up to be." Carol talked about using "possible or probably" in her classes, instead of "right or wrong". The affective filter goes up when you are wrong, and you stop learning when this happens. I had a chance to experience this first hand during the session, when Carol asked if someone could define 'pragmatics' my over tired brain heard 'pragmatic' (no s) and I raised my hand to define the wrong word. Carol was VERY kind at correcting me, but it did make me feel uncomfortable to be wrong in that setting. I didn't stop paying attention, but I can see how this would change the lesson with a student. I can't wait to use Carol's suggestions in the classroom! Carol and Kristy Placido also very generously donated copies of Kristy's novel, "Robo en la Noche" to me to give away as prizes during my session. Thank you Kristy and Carol!
After lunch it was time for my session, it was a small (roughly 8 attendees) but quality group. A takeaway I have from being a presenter is to put serious thought into the description of my session. I was too focused on the actual presentation. In the future I will describe what attendees will take away from the session, as well as open it to more people. I think the 'clever' title (I am not good at making clever titles) probably scared a few people away, as well as the fact that I said it was designated experienced for elementary. Many of the strategies covered will work for all age levels and all experience levels of teachers. I will also probably try to cover less in future presentations, so I can demo more, as that is where the fun comes in (I wanted to give everyone lots of takeaways for their classroom). Two of my main topics were classroom games, and Reader's Theater. Please click on the links to read more about each of these items. I asked my friend Jonathan (in the corner in blue in the above picture), to write up my session, plus one more that I missed. He did a wonderful job, so the words below are his, not mine.
Jonathan writes about my session:
Erica Peplinski - Elementary My Dear Watson - TPRS CI Elementary Style
When choosing the sessions to attend, I like most attendees, wanted to chose the most relevant sessions for me. Being an Elementary CI Spanish teacher, I was immediately drawn to Elementary My Dear Watson - TPRS CI Elementary Style. After finding out that my colleague was giving the presentation, I was even more excited. You see, I have worked with Erica for four years and she always is improving her art and adding more techniques to her repertoire. Even though she shares out her ideas and new findings with the department, I knew that I was going to learn something new.
Of course, she did not disappoint. She shared valuable CI techniques that only only the kids get excited about, but beg for more. My big take away was "Unicornio Malo," an elementary version of Martina Bex's Mafia. As with most of the techniques presented on in her session, Erica had us engaged, out of our seats, and playing the game. For me, I internalize the material when I actually do it instead of watching it. It was not only fun for me, but will be fun for my students when I try this game out in class this week.
Jonathan also was able to attend Amy Roe's session, another that I was sad to miss. He was kind enough to blog about it for me though, below are his words:
Another Elementary CI session, appropriately named "Elementary CI" caught my attention. When Amy Roe, the presenter, told me about her background - a high school teacher that has taught every grade level from preschool through university, I immediately knew that this session would be precisely for me. You see, I am in the exact same situation. I have taught every grade level from preschool through university as well, and just like her, I was a high school teacher that went to the middle school and then to elementary school. I hung on to every word that she said, since her nuggets of knowledge spoke directly to my heart. Even though the session was geared to the more beginner CI teachers, I found this invaluable even as a seasoned veteran. Amy demonstrated how she uses stories in class and then talked about "persona especial." Not only does Amy use this fantastic CI technique, but she co-creates stories about the "persona especial" and incorporates them into her classroom library. Of all the stories in her classroom library, the stories co-written by her students about her students are the most read in her classroom.
This CI Midwest conference was an exciting experience for me to collaborate with other CI teachers and improve myself as a CI teacher. I'm looking forward to attending the next conference to improve my skills and help my students acquire Spanish. - Jonathan Bowles
The brain craves novelty, and so I was excited for my next session with Janelle Afrasiab (Magic Tricks in the CI Classroom). Using a magic trick to spice up a story or to increase student interest is a great idea. Janelle walked us through several tricks during her session and then allowed us to practice with decks of cards she had brought. She was very kind when Jonathan and I messed up her pre-set deck by immediately shuffling the cards she put in front of us. She helped us fix our deck, and taught us magic for our classroom. Thanks Janelle!
My final session of the day was Turn Up the Volume! Using Music for Comprehensible Input with Rebecca Moulton. Rebecca's session was another amazing experience. She shared a step by step process for using music in the classroom to teach TPRS and CI. Not only did she speak to how to use music with beginning language learners, she also shared hands on activities and a multi-step process for success. Rebecca was a warm and creative presenter with several wonderful videos to share for all languages. She also took the time to connect with the people in her session, and shared creative extension activities for her music. I also appreciated that she had a list by the door for people to add their favorite music in different languages. It was long by the end of the day, and another valuable resource. One of the things Rebecca said that struck me was " What we learn with pleasure, we never forget". This couldn't be more true in my opinion, and Rebecca's session was very memorable for me. Can't wait to try her ideas in the classroom.
I wanted to be at all the sessions, but one of the sessions I was very sad to miss was Sr. Wooly's Circling with a Beat. I tried to find a video I could embed of his session, but was unable to make it work. I didn't attend this session as it was marked for beginners (and I figured it would be packed/this gave me time to attend to OTHER sessions I wanted to see) but it sounded like it was both fun and informative from next door. In case you are not a Sr. Wooly fan yet, I included one of his videos below. My students LOVE this song and learn it on their own at home after a showing in class.
Other sessions I was sad to miss include (but are not limited to) those pictured below, Mira Canion, Jim Tripp,Alina Filipescu, Mike Coxon, Grant Boulanger and more (oh my)!
I don't see how CiMidwest 2016 could have been better (unless it was longer and I had more time to attend ALL the sessions). Thank you very much to all the organizers, presenters, and attendees for such an amazing experience. I was honored to be a part of the first CiMidwest, and hope to be there for all future experiences as well. If you have not yet been to a conference, I highly recommend it. Not only will you be laugh and be inspired, but you will be surrounded by support and encouragement, which is something all educators need!
I struggled with whether or not to assign homework to my students. On the one hand, research shows that the more you hear and are exposed to comprehensible input, the more of a language you will acquire. On the other hand I think kids today are overworked and have less free time, creative play, and time with family than is good for them. Many recent studies show that homework does no good until students are in upper grades. Science has definitely come down on the side of sleep being crucial for learning, memory and the brain.
I was not sure how to win, until it occurred to me. If I was going to get students to practice outside of school it had to be with compelling input that would make them want to do it! It was out of a need to provide this to my students that the resource center of my website was born. If you are a Spanish teacher I recommend you check it out. Here you can find games, stories, cartoons, and music organized by topic or story. My student's homework? Simply to play on this site twice a week, in the buttons I have "open" for them at the top of my page (three or four specific links that re-inforce what we do in class). Students in 2nd or 3rd grade can also play on Sr. Wooly or Duo-lingo. Once a month I use a Google Form to have parents check-in to say if there students are playing (though I don't need that for Sr. Wooly or Duo-lingo as I can see student progress). I do a prize drawing for kids that participate. It is 100% voluntary. Does it work? On weeks when I finish a lesson early enough to preview the website in class (it's a motivator if they clean up quickly enough), I usually get 500-2000 hits (for 500 students). On weeks I don't preview it usually ranges from 200-500 hits. I rarely use it in class, other than if I have saved a movie talk on a homework page (I add Spanish subtitles when I can and students love to watch them at home). Students also love bragging about seeing something on the website before the other students. It comes in very handy for last minute sub plans if I am sick, since the students have so many appropriate options.
Parents often tell me that students LOVE practicing their Spanish this way at home. :)
The only other "homework" I ever give out is a story re-tell. I only do this with a story students know well. Before bringing it home students have either drawn the pictures for the story in a concept with words I put in for them (in younger grades), or written the words and drawn the pictures for the story with my help or on their own. In younger grades I let them change story details (name, what they want, where they go) later in the year when they are ready for it.
Before taking a store re-tell home students also listen to me read it (wrong on purpose, I pretend I didn't sleep well and need their help). They correct me when I make mistakes. Then they read it to their self in a 'whisper phone' which magnifies their own voice. Then they read it with a friend. Only then do I let them take it home. I give my students a plenty of time to do this, and they can do their re-tell with any older family member. They are allowed to do the re0tell in any manner they want. Some just re-tell with the pictures in their comic strip, others use family members, dolls, or stuffed animals. Parents are instructed not to correct their mistakes, and to celebrate their successes. I do this as young as first grade, and then response from parents is always phenomenal. If you'd like a free download of my basic blank comic strip, and/or parent letter please click here. I don't know where I got these originally, but I have modified them a bit over the years. :)
Reader's Theater is a great way to get in more repetitions. To be more successful, I recommend making sure the text you choose is both funny and compelling. It is also a good idea to do this with a text this students already learned. Below are some of my favorite ways to do Reader's Theater with students.
All The World's A Stage-
Karen Rowan did a wonderful presentation about this at IFLT last year. I am looking forward to trying this with my students. While I have done variations on this, Karen's presentation helped me see ways to make it more successful. In this version the teacher breaks students into groups. Each person in the group has a part (even if it is just a windmill or a door....my students always love being the door in stories). The teacher reads the script aloud, everyone acts at the same time. The teacher can rewind, pause, or fast forward, while reading. If you "pause" the action, you an also freeze one group and have everyone else listen and watch as you "circle the group in a picture talk." Taking pictures of groups when paused are great for putting up online. You can take pictures of different groups at different parts in the story to picture talk, and/or have a caption contest in the TL. You could also just give students copies of the pictures and allow them to put them in the correct order and add text.
Master Puppet Theater
Have students use dolls, stuffed animals, or puppets to re-enact a scene. A small table can be set up as a stage. Flashlights can be used for spot lights.
I learned about this variation (and the next) at a training with Craig Sheehy. In it, the teacher has the whole class stand up and act out a known text with their eyes shut. For example if the character in the text is walking along, the students walk along too. This is a great way to check for understanding. With the right class you could also videotape and re-watch. This would both be funny, but also a chance for more repetitions. Very confident students sometimes even want to try this in front of the group.
Theater with Style
I also learned this at a Craig Sheehy training, and watching others try it was hilarious. To add a little variety, have students act out the text in a different style (i.e. cowboy style, fairy style, etc). I will list my student's current favorites below, but we are always adding to this list as they come up with new ideas. They find this hilarious.
Ensemble Production (aka Rocky Horror Style)
Although I have only done this once, it was a favorite of my students. I will try to find other videos to do this with as well this year. To do this one you take a video that everyone can have a part in (even if it's just throwing snowballs or wind). The video I used for it was an older version of Jack Frost. We started this process by learning a lot of high frequency words. When we were ready, we movie talked the below video. Then students picked their parts (we "auditioned" for the part of Old Man Winter with evil laughs). On the day we 're-enacted' it, we all sat in a semi-circle. We'd watch a part and narrate it, and then we would act it out. Students would say things like "oh no" and "behind you" and "run" or "fast" at the appropriate parts. We also threw a lot of snowballs. I even borrowed a scooter with wheels on it from the gym for the sled ride at the end of the clip. You will see where that comes in if you watch the below video. I'll post videos of myself with my class if I get permission!
A Tufts University study shows that the brain (auditory cortex) responds differently to different types of sounds. Sounds that carry more intense emotions (which vary based on culture, personal experience, and many other factors) create greater neural response.
The last version I am excited to share with my students is "Sound Stage". I learned this technique in a wonderful session with Kristy Placido. You take a text, and add sound effects. In a younger class the teacher reads it, in a more advanced class students could read it. Students provide the sound effects for the text (walking feet, birds or insects, rushing water, the rustling of a bush, etc). The sound effects give us a more vivid mental image of what is happening, which in turn, should help us acquire more quickly. We did this as a competition at IFLT in Kristy's session, and even though everyone had the same text, it was still a lot of fun to do listen to all the groups.
I can't wait to try this with my students. I may encourage groups that are listening to close their eyes (and turn the lights off) for ambience. Check out the first few minutes of the two side by side videos of sharks below. See how different the sound from each video makes you feel about the sharks! Think of what infusing sound and music into your classroom can do for how your students can connect to the emotion!
The beginning of the school year is always an exciting and exhausting time. It seems like no matter how many things I get done, my to-do list just grows! I think it is important to make sure that you don't create teacher burnout before the new school year starts too. If you go into it exhausted you are in for a long year. I know that it makes me a better teacher when I go into my classroom refreshed and excited. I also try to spend as much time with my family as possible, because the first few weeks of school are such a whirl wind. I love being with my students, but I miss the snuggles from my own little monsters (said with the utmost affection).
Part of the reason there is so much to do, is that the first few weeks seem to always set the tone for what the students will expect for the rest of the school year. The relationship and climate you create with the students can make or break (or at least complicate) any classroom. Our brain works better when it's happy; and can only reach it's full learning potential when it is in a safe environment. Read more about that here. An important goal for me for the start of the year (and all year really) is that I want the students to feel joy and confidence in my room and in their language learning journey.
What do I do the first few weeks?
The first few weeks of school, my focus is on the following: building relationships with students, creating a warm and safe classroom environment, setting expectations to the school year, and getting the kids excited about Spanish. My favorite quotation about education is "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." (Socrates). During these first few weeks, I want all of my students excited about the year to come, and ready to learn in a safe environment. What exactly do I do? Read on for a brief description of what I do with each grade level. I'm working on making units for the first few weeks of elementary (with all of the below worksheets available) . However, I'm a perfectionist and want them to be my best work, so it is taking me more time than I had anticipated; I will blog about them when I am done!
When (if) you read through the below lesson please take the amount I complete in each lesson with a grain of salt. I am an over planner, I like to have lots planned, and what often ends up happening, is that what I think will be done in 5 lessons takes 7 or 8 lessons. The lessons are only meant to progress if students are ready to do so.
I see my Kindergarten students at the end of their day. Some of them are away from Mom and Dad for the first time in their life; all of them are exhausted. I want their first Spanish experience to create happy memories and confidence in their abilities. I want them to LOVE Spanish and be ready for more.
Lesson 1 Kindergarten:
At this point Kindergarteners are close to the limit of their attention span for this point in the year. If they are still paying close attention I introduce them to my "friends" Pablo and Clara (see pictures below). I couldn't tell you exactly where the names come from. I made them up several years ago, mid-activity when a student asked me what the puppet's were named. There is no way I can change them now though because the students LOVE these puppets. They have taken on a whole life of their own. This is the first time students get to meet either of them. I introduce Pablo in the TL. "Here is my friend, Pablo!". Pablo wants to practice saying "hello" and "goodbye" in Spanish. The rest of the class is a giggle fest. "Pablo" pops up in silly places as the kids close their eyes. Sometimes he is under a desk, sometimes he is sitting next to a student (or on their cabeza), sometimes he is up in a tree. When the kids spot him we all yell (I'll be honest it's loud) "Hola" and then he does something silly and says "adiós" as he disappears behind my back to hide again. I could stretch this out the whole hour (but I don't ). This game usually fills up any remaining time the first day. If they need something else we have a dance party to "Unicornio Espacial", the only 'required' move is making a unicorn horn with their hands if they hear the word in the song. As students leave Pablo and I say "adiós" on the way out. I often get enthusiastic "adiós's" back, but I always get big smiles by this point. :)
Lesson 2 Kindergarten:
I start introducing the following word: salta, escribe, anda/camina, mira, señala, toca, se levanta, se sienta, rápido/despacio, una vez, dos veces, levanta/baja, aplaude, toma, escucha.
I also do what I call a 'soft' pre-test. My district requires data, and this means pre-tests (which I don't want to do with K), here is what I do instead. Before trying to connect any of the above words to meaning, I start with the first word and say does anyone know what 'salta' means? If they do know it, I record it quickly on my attendance grid(probably only native speakers). If not, then I show them the slideshow image below and do the action. Now all of my detectives have it (and I have my first point of data, none or only one or two students showed understading). Next all the students do the motion as I act it out. I only introduce about half these words at once, using the same basic process for each word. Then we do silly things like "Follow the leader" and whichever of these words the leader acts out, I say, and everyone else does (charades, or pictionary work too, depending on your group). You can also combine the words to do silly things, make silly stuffed animals do actions with the words, etc.
At this point we start filling out a very basic "Todo Sobre Mí". I give them the below worksheet. The first day I ONLY have them work the side on the left below with the boy and the girl. My goal is for them to try to write their name, to draw a picture of their self, and to practice some frequently used vocal (me llamo) (soy/chico/chica). I left the faces blank on purpose. Those that are fast processors can draw faces on them. They can also circle the word that matches their self (chico or chica). The second half of the worksheet (on the right) is for a different day. I say "goodbye" again at the door with Pablo and Clara (and collet the worksheet)..
What's next? Over the next few weeks we will continue to review/acquire the above vocabulary through games, and songs. We will also learn to count to 10 through music and counting a lot of silly things, including "bugs" that we hunt for with flashlights. I introduce the colors (oso café), go on a nature walk to draw the colors, and start our first few stories (one of them is about chicks, which gives us a chance to dance to Pollito Pío; and watch last year's Kindergarten Music Videos). Yes, I am crazy enough to make 20 fan music videos each year with my 500 students. It is a high light of the year for them, and thanks to a tip from Leslie Davison this year at IFLT I have ideas to make them even better next year. I even play Spanish Snowball tag with all 500 kids at one point (and then I crawl home afterwards and don't get off the floor all weekend). ;)
The intention when I started this blog was to cover all the grade levels in one post, but since just the few lessons of Kindergarten took me a week to put together, one at a time. More soon.... what is your favorite activity the first few weeks of school?
Entering my 13th year in the classroom; I am a TPRS/CI Elementary Spanish Teacher. Passionate about TPRS/CI, Brain based learning, and using technology to bring the world to our students, and our students to the world.