ACTFL 2017 Active Engagement

Slides and Resources from my Active Engagement ACTFL presentation are available at this link!

I also recommend visiting Annabelle Allen’s blog for inspiration on class points and so many more active engagement strategies.

Thank you for all who came to my session!


La Casa de la Dentista Graphic Novel

Señor Wooly’s newest graphic novel, La Casa de la Dentista, is ALMOST here. I was lucky enough to sneak a peek of it before its release and I have to tell you, I was gripped. The two main reasons I loved it and I want to re-read it are:

The story was gripping.

The art was stunning.


The story kept me on edge. One of the ways it did that was through suspense and creepiness. I took a professional development session from CI-master Sarah Rasay and she noted that one way to keep your class engaging and compelling is through the use of creepy input.

Creepiness has been among the MOST successful ways I have engaged my classes. From the Talking Doll episode of the Twilight Zone, to spooky short films like Closet Space, to La Dentista music video, I have noted that students are WAY more into creepy/spooky themes than, say, romantic ones.

La Casa de la Dentista played on some key horror movie elements that were delightfully unsettling, yet not too scary. The world-building of the creepy town and the undercurrent of the Legend of the Dentist were fascinating.

The art was beautiful, intriguing, and completely unique. The format of a graphic novel is genius. The visuals keep the reader engaged, provide supports for language learners, and make the reading that more satisfying.

A few weeks ago I was in a Mexican restaurant in Denver called Machete. Its restroom was wallpapered with a graphic novel in Spanish. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I needed to know what was happening in the pictures. The art drew me in, but I relied on the text to make sense of it. The case is true for La Casa de la Dentista. The art draws you to read and re-read it.

I offered a couple students the chance to read La Casa de la Dentista: two Spanish 2 students at widely different ability levels. One of the students chose to put it back because the vocabulary was too difficult for him. I had forgotten to point out to him the glossary in the back. The other student devoured the book and when I checked in with him at the end of class, his eyes sparked and he told me “Me gusta MUCHISIMO.” With just that small sample size, I would recommend this for students who are past their first year of language learning.

How I will implement it:

Señor Wooly has made paperback copies available in set of 10 or single hard-cover copies. I will be adding the books to my FVR library.

Over the course of the next school year, I would love to work this novel into my curriculum because I know that the level of language combined with the visual supports will be compelling for all levels of students. I am also excited to try out the teaching tutorials and tips from his blog. There is such a wealth of resources to draw from, thanks to Jim Wooldridge and Carrie Toth.

I struggle to teach novels because I am personally not as invested or engaged. However, with this graphic novel AND all of the resources, this is a novel that I would get excited about teaching.

Three Teaching Hacks to Make your Life Real Easy.. er, Easier

East High School is full of such brilliant CI and classroom management wizards! I have upped my teaching game so much just by being surrounded by them!

Three Organizational Tricks to Make Your Life Easier:

1. Notecards of Justice

Credit: Sarah Rasay/Connie Navarro Instead of popsicle sticks, put notecards on rings. One class on the lined side, one class on the blank side. Voilá. No more accidentally dumping all of your popsicle sticks on the floor.. or trying to walk around with your clipboard and your jar of popsicle sticks. unnamed

2. Wet-Erase Rosters

Credit: Tiffany Choi. Each corner can be designated for the day. (We see students 4 days a week at my school so it works out perfectly.) At a glance you can see who was missing last class, who was tardy, who lost/earned points, etc. unnamed-1

3. The Alphabetizer

I combined the forces of Annabelle Allen and Bryce Hedstrom for this classroom wizardry.

Step 1: Give students a UNIQUE number (1-150..or however many students you have.) Period 1 will have 1-30, period 2 will have 31-60, etc. (Annabelle’s idea.)
Step 2: Train them to write it on the top right corner of their paper, every time.
Step 3: When you have a pile of collected papers, call TWO names. The first student to touch the stack of paper WINS! The LOSER takes the pile of papers and puts them in number order. (Bryce’s idea!)
Step 4: Easily put grades in the gradebook because they are already in order. Save time. Go home early.





Song Unit for Homecoming

This unit was PERFECT for homecoming week.

Song: DUELE EL CORAZON Enrique Iglesias

LYRICS “duele el corazon” ready to be cut up in chunks.

For 2 days in a row, before you use the song in class:
Play DUELE EL CORAZON as they enter. Do not talk about it. This is very important to create buy-in and to get them to hear and feel the song without judging it.

Day 2: 
PQA: “estás enfermo? ¿qué te duele? with pictures or with students.
PQA: vas a ir a homecoming? vas a bailar mucho? has comprado zapatos nuevos? los zapatos son cómodos? te duelen los pies cuando bailas? GOLDEN QUESTION: “¿Qué prefieres: qué te duelen los pies o te duele el corazón?”

Day 3
Continue day 2’s PQA
TPR and PQA: le da and se va

Students have a bag of cut up lyrics. Students listen to the song and find the chorus part 1 and part 2. When they hear the chorus part 1, hold it up. When they hear chorus part 2, hold it up.

Exit ticket: Translate with your partner “Con él te duele el corazón, conmigo te duelen los pies.”

Day 4:  Friday before Homecoming!!
Students work with a partner to put all of the lyrics in order. They will probably ask to hear it twice! Let them!

Then, play this song and let them dance!!

My rules for dancing:
1. Everyone must be standing. You do not have to dance, but you have to stand.
2. Everyone must be facing the board.
3. No videotaping. What happens in Spanish class stays in Spanish class.
4. You do you! We’re not here to judge other people.


Wildebeest for Spanish 2 Past Tense

I repurposed the Wildebeest MovieTalk to review high frequency structures in the past tense with Spanish 2.

Target Vocab:
– había/ there was
– dijo/ said
– quería(n) saber /(they) wanted to know
– pienso que/ I think that
– (agarró)
– (tocó)
– (miró)

Drive Folder Contains:
Link to the Folder

7 days of slides
Screenshots to PictureTalk
The video
A six-frame to draw the story
Screenshot cards ready to print
Fan N Pick cards ready to print
Reading Quiz

Day 1:
TPR the new vocabulary
PQA: ¿Qué quieres saber?
– Discuss what they want to know: to speak Spanish? if aliens exist? do you want to know the future? do you want to know what people think about you?

Practice TPR words like mira, agarra and toca, with body parts. Mira el dedo, toca el dedo, agarra el dedo, agarra dos dedos, besa el dedo, etc.

(Picture Talk Brad Pitt in the movie Seven… “What’s IN THE BOX??”)

Put random prizes and silly things in a box.
Ask them: ¿Quieres saber qué hay en la caja? Circle that question.
Prompt them to use “Pienso que…” by dividing the class into teams. If you give an answer, your team gets 1 point. If you answer using pienso que… that’s 2 points. If you answer using “pienso que” and you’re right, you get the keep the object!

Day 2: 
Show screenshots of the Wildebeest story. PictureTalk the screenshots. Name the two Wildebeests. Ask them who they think is smart. Ask them what they think is in the water. Ask them what they think will happen.

Había dos animales. Los animales se llaman ñus. Los dos estaban en la playa. Querían saber qué había en el agua. El primer ñu miró el agua y dijo “Pienso que es un cocodrilo.” El segundo ñu dijo “Pienso que es un tronco de un árbol.”

El primer ñu agarró una roca y la tiró. La tiró porque quería saber qué había en el agua. El segundo ñu repitió “Pienso que es un tronco de árbol.” El primer ñu repitió “Pienso que es cocodrilo.” El primer ñu agarró una rama. Agarró la rama porque quería saber qué había en el agua. El primer ñu miró la cosa y saltó encima de la cosa. De repente, la cosa comió el ñu.

El segundo ñu pensó: “Era un cocodrilo.”
El tercer ñu dijo: “Pienso que es un tronco.”

Ask them to predict the ending, then show the video. After the video, have students read and draw the story.

Day 3:
Shoimage2w the video again

Fan N Pick Activity
Fan N Pick cards ready to print in the Drive Folder
Student 1 fans out the cards.
Student 2 picks a card and reads it in Spanish/shows it to the group.
Student 3 translates the card to English.
Student 4 writes down the translation on a separate sheet of paper.
Then rotate jobs.

When they finish, have students put the cards in chronological order.

Exit ticket: Look at 4 sentences on the board, put them in order of the story.

Day 4:
Reading and Quiz
1st time reading: Project the reading. Read, circle, clarify. As you read it, one side of the class plays the part of the the 1st ñu. The other side plays the part of the 2nd ñu. They say their lines as a group.
2nd time reading: You read, they do the gesture
3rd time reading: Students volleyball translate with their partner, as you coach.
4th time: Chorally read as a class

Then give students the quiz. It is very similar to the previous day’s exit ticket.

Day 5:
Students take one screenshot card. They have one minute to think about how to describe it. If they are not ready, come around and coach them.

Then, they tell it to their neighbor. They speak for 30 seconds, their neighbor speaks for 30 seconds.

Then, students stand up and form 2 lines facing each other, or inner/outer circle.
Inner circle has 30 seconds to describe their card.
Outer circle has 30 seconds to describe their card.
Say “buen trabajo.”

Switch cards.

Switch partners. Keep going.

Free-Write: When they are done with that activity, students will write their own version of the story for 5 minutes. Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 11.08.48 AM

My first day of class: ¡Como yo!

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 6.09.00 AM

I learned this protocol from Connie Navarro, who used it as a community-builder during our CCFLT meeting.

I applied it to my first day of class. As I PQAed “What do you like to do?” I encouraged students to shout “¡Como yo!” (just like me!) if they heard something that also describes them. Modifications: Instead of snapping, I think I would’ve just had them say Ooohh “because everything in Spanish class is the most interesting thing you’ve ever heard.”

I started out in English with:

  • Jenny goes to East High School.
  • Frank is a sophomore.
  • Jessie has a notebook.

I then went on to describe a little bit about myself, in Spanish.

  • I am from Chicago.
  • I like to eat. I like to eat pizza. I like to eat Chicago-style pizza.
  • I have a friend. (When no one said “como yo” I made fun of them for having no friends.”)

Students had written their name and drawn an activity they like to do on their name card. So I jumped into some PQA.

  • Riley likes to play baseball. etc.

The cool thing about this activity was that:

  1. It created instant connections among students.
  2. It was an easy comprehension check.
  3. …and this is the best one… It has seeped into our daily class. When we PQA, students use “como yo” when they hear something like them! It validates the person who is talking. It shows that we are not alone.