Inspirational Word Wall

Today I am sharing with you this word wall. I put these up during Black History Month, but it does not only represent Black History. It represents inspirational, powerful stories from around the globe, and can be up in your room all year long!

Hang this up in your class as a reminder of the work we are called to do as teachers to dismantle systems of white supremacy. Let’s commit to continually creating curriculum, behavior management systems, and class communities that represent, empower, and connect our students. Let’s be courageous in conversations with students, building leaders, and families as we work to create more equitable schools.

I ask that if you download these slides, you make a $5 donation to the NAACP.

If you are in my district, please give credit to me when posting these.

Culturally Responsive Teaching

In the book Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain, Zaretta Hammond explains the neuroscience of learning and the impact of culture on learning. Hammond explains how teachers can create learning partnerships to make school a more successful and joyful place for diverse learners. By teaching dependent learners to become independent learners, schools can disrupt the inequities that create the conditions for a “school-to-prison pipeline.”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Each time I re-read this book, I learn something new and remember something I had forgotten. Please buy this book (preferably from a Black-owned bookshop and not Amazon).

My main takeaway from this book is BUILD TRUST. For students to be authentically engaged, they need to have a strong rapport with the teacher and a feeling of safety in the community.

  1. Hammond says to build trust by listening, just as we do in Special Person interviews, or personalized questions with students. Asking follow-up questions and remembering details of students’ lives build trust.
    • Personalized conversations also provide the chance to identify similarity of interests, which is also a trust-builder.
  2. When our lessons are academically supportive, scaffolded, and not confusing, students feel safe and open to taking risks.
    • This follows Krashen’s Affective Filter theory that lowering anxiety allows for more learning. Shelter your vocabulary, provide repetition, and teach students what to do when a word is unclear.
    • Consistency and routines allow students to relax.
    • Teach metacognition so students trust what you are doing.
    • Sandra Savignon also explains this in her 1976 paper “Communicative Competence: Theory and Classroom Practice” She says to give students phrases to save face like rejoinder phrases or words in the target language like “whatchamacallit”
  3. Making lessons exciting builds trust.
    • Joy and learning should coexist!
    • Find time to have fun and play together. Check out La Maestra Loca’s brain breaks and games!
  4. Hammond also says to show vulnerability to students and share some of your own stories and personal challenges you are taking on.
  5. Attend community and school events to build familiarity.

There is SO MUCH MORE that you can learn from this book to help create a more equitable learning environment.

Throughout online learning, I have continued to facilitate connection circles in which every student has a chance to talk (in English!) just so we can get to know each other. What other ways do you build trust and community in your class?

Dismantling White Supremacy in our Classes

Good morning, friends. I write to you after a year of introspection and anti-racist research. I write to you the same week of Daunte Wright’s murder by police during a traffic stop.

This year may have been painful for white people as we continue to wake up to the truths of how Black and Brown people are brutalized, dehumanized, and killed. Imagine how painful it is for Black and Brown families who have to live with fear every day. Who have to have these conversations with their kids often. Who are not recognized for their individual characters, but rather for stereotypes of who they are. We white people must push through this discomfort and pain so we can fully empathize with people of color and show up as allies and co-conspirators in their liberation. Only then can we all truly be free.

As teachers, it is our responsibility to understand that education in the U.S. is steeped in white supremacy. It is our responsibility to dismantle white supremacy in our classrooms and in our schools.

We cannot expect the people of color in our lives to give us the free labor of educating us. I do not think I am an expert in this field and I encourage you to pay educators of color who are teaching anti-racism. I also think that with this small platform I have, I can share with you some of what I am learning and implementing to create an anti-racist class. I will offer some takeaways, but encourage you to dive deeper in your anti-racism work through buying and reading books by BIPOC authors, taking webinars, and subscribing to anti-racist social media pages and email lists.

Book Recommendations:
Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain by Zaretta Hammond
We Want to Do More than Survive by Bettina L. Love
Cultivating Genuis by Gholdy Muhammad
Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman

Sites and Email List Recommendations: – Resources and Webinars for Abolitionist teaching – Subscribe to the email list for daily action items and topical articles

Anti-Racist / Abolitionist Educators
Dena Simmons – @denasimmons
Deonna Smith – @deonnasmith
Monique Melton – @moemelton

As I learn to talk about race, I know that I will make mistakes. I ask that if what I am saying or how I am saying it is ignorant, microaggressive, or wrong, people call me in so I can learn and do better. If you are a white person who is upset by what I am saying, please do some inner work to figure out why.

Who else have you been learning from? In what ways has your teaching shifted this year or over the last few years?

Hybrid Matamoscas!

Are you feeling boxed in by the limitations of hybrid teaching?

Are you missing the fun of kids playing a game and smiling and being goofy?

I certainly am! I feel like the joy has been sucked out of teaching because we are trying to teach students at home and in-person while also maintaining the social distancing guidelines! It feels so hard to do anything!

I tried virtual matamoscas (you know, the flyswatter game?) today with my hybrid students and it almost made me feel like I was in a normal class again.

You can see a video of how I did the activity here. Once you get an idea of the activity, you can skip to 14:30 for the extension activity.

Here’s how it went:

  1. I created a jamboard with images from a video. (I only created one slide then I duplicated the slides.) I also created sentences in advance that describe the photos.
  2. After doing a movie talk with video and follow-up reading activities, I started the game.
  3. I assigned groups of students to a team. That team corresponded with one slide on the jamboard. Students added a sticky note to the jamboard with their name on it.
  4. I did a practice round in English where I called out sentences and they practiced moving their sticky note to that picture.
  5. Then I did several rounds of ‘matamoscas.’
  6. When finished, students used their sticky notes to caption 1 sentence. I praised their captions and (tried to) described why their caption was done well (it used our new vocab, it added details, it was a compound sentence, it used dialogue, etc


  1. You can see that the kids are actually understanding the words you’ve been using!
  2. Students can interact! And kids at home can play against kids at school.
  3. It is a sneaky way to give more input.
  4. It’s completely paperless and there are no materials to clean up or reset.
  5. Playing in small groups made students accountable to each other.
  6. Unlike matamoscas on paper, I can easily scroll through and see how everyone is responding!
  7. It’s joyful!
  8. Students can use the sticky notes to write to each other.


  1. As you saw, kids have free rein of their slide and can go a little nuts. I allowed it because I just needed some goofiness in my life. I will curtail some of that in the future.
  2. It takes a few minutes to prep the slides.


  1. Make a new copy for each class so you don’t have to reset the sticky notes after each class.
  2. You could use this for any level, just scale the language difficulty up or down.
  3. Start with easy sentences, then more complex sentences.
  4. For more ideas, or to use this lesson, visit the previous blog post.

If you have been doing matamoscas in your virtual/hybrid class, what other tips or tricks do you have? If you haven’t, try it out this week or next and see how it goes!

Agua es Vida: Cute Video with Resources

Hi friends!

Pandemic fatigue is HERE! Especially if you are trying to teach hybrid! If you are out of gas and just need something that you don’t have to prep, here it is.

I found this CUTE 2-minute non-verbal video and decided to go all out and make a mini unit out of it. Not only is the video adorable and compelling, but it also could be a launching point for conversations around class struggles, parents sacrificing for their kids, and environmental racism.

This would be for levels 2, 3, or 4. The target vocabulary is logra, parece, and trata de. Our department is reading Bananas right now and these words fit right in.

Don’t have anything planned for Monday? Here’s my gift to you! These activities are compatible to virtual, in-person, and hybrid! My unit includes:
– Video + questions
– A short reading
– Reading activities with Jamboard
– Matamoscas with Jamboard
– Reading and writing activity
– Speaking activity
– Writing activity

If you notice an error or a permissions problem, send me a sweet email at

Me Llamo Víctor

Dear Wooly superfans and those new to Señor Wooly,

Jim Wooldridge and Juan Carlos Pinilla have created two incredible graphic novels: La Casa de La Dentista (also available in French) & Me Llamo Víctor Pt. 1. I am a huge Wooly fan because of his storylines, humor, and application of best practices in language teaching.

Pre-pandemic, Jim sent me a copy of Me Llamo Víctor Pt. 1 and I was excited to review it. Considering the survival mode that all teachers have been in over the last year, I did not get the chance to write about this graphic novel until now. Here goes:

The Top 6 Reasons I love the Graphic Novel Me Llamo Víctor:

  1. Gripping backstory: We, as Wooly fans, are well aware of the narcissism of Víctor, of the video Guapo. But what caused him to become so arrogant? (Knowing the video Guapo is not a pre-requisite to diving into this story.) Me Llamo Víctor follows the life of a young man who lives in the shadow of his successful and muy guapo older brother. What effect would having a super successful older sibling have on a young person?
  2. Easter Eggs: There are so many hidden jokes and fun visuals on each page! It keeps me reading and re-reading.
  3. Creepiness: Señor Wooly has been known for being a little.. off. His videos leave students asking “wait, what?” Through this strategic creepiness (¿Adónde vas?, Ganga, Amnesia) or trippy-ness (Diego y sus Amigos, Flores) or preposterousness (Quehaceres, Sé Chévere, Vibra Viral), students are drawn to the stories. Me Llamo Víctor Pt. 1 invokes this creepiness with nods to It 🤡 and magical realism.
  4. Art: The art in this novel is so compelling. Each frame has so much to talk about! I love taking time to display individual frames and picture talk them with my classes. By reading the expressions on the characters’ faces, students can predict what a character is thinking. Students can take the perspective of the character and describe how their life is similar or what they would do in that scenario.
  5. Heart: The characters are complex and endearing. Readers can relate to their struggles and their passions.
  6. Training!!: Are you feeling super burnt out this year? Are you having a hard time inventing new and exciting activities? Carrie Toth and Jim Wooldridge have created video tutorials for how to teach a graphic novel in new ways. I have applied these activities in other lessons I have taught because they are so engaging. For example, here is a virtual version of Circle the Wagons using photos from the music video Soy Yo. Incorporating these activities brings new joy and life into my class!

As I write this, I await big news from Señor Wooly himself. I predict it has something to do with graphic novels.. Espero pacientemente porque el genio es paciencia eterna.

Help! My Class Keeps Blurting in English!

We’ve all been there. It is not easy as a language teacher to contain student’s natural response of speaking in English.

Quick tips to reign in your chatty class.

Disclaimer: I will not start my classes out with these approaches. I will continue to work with my classes to develop community, motivation, and routines. I will consistently teach and re-teach the routines. However, on the days that they really need to focus, here are some options!

  1. Buy this helpful guidefrom my instructional coach and CI guru, Connie Navarro, for $1.50. It will help diagnose why students are blurting and how to respond to it.
  2. Gamify: Split the room in two. Tell them that the team that wins does not have to take the quiz at the end of class. If one team blurts, the other team receives a point.
  3. Timer: Set a timer for 5 minutes (start small, so they can feel successful.) Say, “if I hear English more than 3 times, there is a quiz at the end of class.”
  4. 3 Strikes = Dictation: I ask students “Do you prefer to say the answers out loud or write the sentences out?” Most of the time they say “We want to say the answers!” I tell them, “Ok, you can say the answers, as long as you are staying in Spanish. If I hear English 3 times, you will write the sentences.” Then you do a dictation with them.
  5. Silent Responses: Instead of having students say their responses outloud, have them write it on a whiteboard. When you give the signal “3-2-1 Muéstrenme” everyone holds up the board.

October is hard but you are doing it! Keep up the great work. It matters.

CI Power Moves: I LOVE YOU!

This is a guest post from Connie Navarro. If you are looking for other CI Power Moves, Connie has a new website with easy and clear ways to elevate your teaching game! I have learned so much from her. Check it out.
CI Power Moves: I LOVE YOU
This is the power of positivity. We love and care about our students but how often do we really tell them?
Connie’s strategy:
“Pause right before or right after the first activity in front of the whole class and say “oh, let me look at you.” Then slowly scan the room and really look at everyone in the eyes, then say “I just love period 7. (p1, p4, etc) I really look forward to seeing you every day. I love being a teacher, but I especially love being YOUR teacher. Today is going to be great. Let’s do this!”
You will get the biggest bang for your buck if you can do this in your most challenging class. You have to be able to be sincere, even if you are TELLING YOURSELF as much as you are telling the students that you love being a teacher. If the kids push back and say “no, Miss, you hate our class” you have to be able to say (even if you are really telling YOURSELF)– “No, I don’t hate this class. It’s true I lose my temper sometimes, or it’s true, we bump heads sometimes, and that’s not my favorite part of teaching, but I do really like you, and I like having you in my class. By choice and by profession, I am a teacher so that I can spend my days with really passionate, dynamic people. I am here for YOU.” Even in your most challenging class, there are students you do genuinely like, and if you can pause and remember (or discover) things about the kids you find most hard-to-love, every class can be your “favorite” class because it will be full of people you genuinely care about, even if they don’t always want to do the activities you have planned or even if they don’t always want to be in school.
When I started giving this unconditional positive regard and 40 seconds of positive energy from my soul to the souls of the worst kids I had ever taught, something truly magical happened. At first they were uncomfortable, squirmy, would not meet my gaze, shouted back “but not me, Miss, not me. You don’t really like having me in your class,” as if to say “no teacher has ever liked having ME in class” or worse yet I think sometimes they were saying “no adult likes having me around, admit it.” The magic happened when I reminded myself daily and affirmed to them daily that the whole reason I was there was to be present with the imperfect humans with infinite untapped potential. The magic was that spark of joy, that moment of calm in the whirlwind of life, when we as a class could set our intention that no matter what fresh hell yesterday had brought, today had the potential to be better, to be smoother, to be calmer.
If you do this, your best classes will be amazing, your middling classes will be awesome, and your worst, dreaded class will rise like you never thought possible.”
-Connie Navarro
Happy new school year! Happy teaching! You are all are my heroes for taking on this noble work!

CI Power Moves: Gestures

This post is part of a series CI: Power Moves. As a teacher in Denver Public Schools and Colorado, I have had the privilege of learning from effective and generous CI instructors. Visit the previous posts here:
1. CI Power Moves: Doorway
2. CI Power Moves: How ARE you?

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 9.35.00 AM
(I post this slide before we do this activity. I refer to it. Later I have students explain WHY we do gestures.)

Why should we do gestures?
1. It is a behavior anchor. Once you establish a clear routine, students will know exactly what is expected. It resets their listening brains.
2. It provides scaffolding. You are priming your students’ brains for more listening later.
3. It is a comprehension check. They are able to show you they understand without speaking or writing.
4. Muscle Memory! This works for kinesthetic learners and almost all other learners. Physical response creates deeper memories because it activates more parts of the brain.
5. It provides repetition (not in context, but still, they are hearing the word spoken, as they see it on the board.) You can also continually review old vocabulary using gestures.

How do I effectively do gestures?
1. Before class, decide if you want a student to create the gesture, you want to create the gesture, or you want to use the American Sign Language. I usually type “asl (insert vocab word)” in Google. I like to use because they usually have gifs that I can drag and drop into my slide.

2. Quickly explain to class WHY we do gestures. “I want to see everyone doing the gestures because it helps me see who understands and physical movements are scientifically proven to help you remember something faster.”

3. Introduce the word. Show the word on the board in (Spanish) and English. Say “tiene” means “has.”

4. Show the gesture. Say: this is the gesture for “has.”

5. Teach the word “Show me!” (montre-moi or muéstrame/enseñame). Say “muéstrame tiene.” You do the gesture and they do the gesture.

6. Be seen looking. Obtrusively watch all students do the gesture. Say “I am looking for 100% of the class doing the action.”

7. Expect that 100% of students do the gesture. If they are not, walk closer to them. If they still are not doing the gesture, quietly say “muéstrame tiene (show me tiene).” If they still do not do the gesture, re-teach them WHY gestures are important.

8. Repeat the same process with 2-4 more words. Then, say them out of order. Say them faster. PRAISE THEM!

9. Check in! Make sure students are connecting the word to the actual meaning. “¿Cómo se dice “tiene” en inglés? (How do you say “tiene” in English?) Give them a 3, 2, 1, countdown and then listen for all students saying “has!” Praise them!

10. Do this for 3 minutes every day.


When they are ready, give them some challenges.

  1. Teacher delays gesture until most students do gesture. Teacher then shows gesture.
  2. Split the class in half and have a contest. Who can do the gestures better/faster/all together? Give a small prize to the winning team. (I always end up giving it to both teams because they all do a great job.)
  3. “Choose your challenge” Say “If you are ready for a challenge, close your eyes. Muéstrame tiene, le gusta, come.” You can gauge if your students are ready by seeing how many felt comfortable closing their eyes.
  4. Let me trick you! Teacher calls out the word but does the WRONG gesture. Continue mixing up words and gestures. Get close to the kids and playfully show them that you are really trying to trick them. Then, laugh at them (if you have a good relationship) when they mess up. Make messing up a fun thing.
  5. Incorporate last week’s words. Continue recycling old words throughout the year.
  6. Play Simón dice/Simon says.