Mix it up! Let’s play some games! 🤩

No-tech games are a great way for your students to review, connect and learn with one another. Chances are if you add a game element to anything that you do in class, it will immediately spark some curiosity and enthusiasm amongst your students! In addition to the many online game platforms (some of my favorites include: wordwall.net, quizlet, quizziz, blooket or peardeck flashcard factory), taking a step away from the screen is also a good idea.

Sticking to some fundamental topics, I have created the following “game boards” with lots of images and opportunity for open-ended responses & ways for students to “level up” their language use! They are available on my newly created TpT page ☺️

Telling Time 🕟

Emotions 🥺

Weather & Clothing Preferences 🌦

Favorite Activities ⚽️

Places in my Community 🏦

Each packet comes with a game board full of images (Spanish/English), 20 vocabulary flashcards with “bombas”, a “roll the dice” page, a few extension activities and individual flashcards of each of the images. I also created a bundle option if you are interested in downloading all of these topics!

Here is how I like to use each:

GAME BOARDS (you will need dice*)

Working in groups of at least three students, students roll the dice to move their “chip or token” on the board to a different spot. Once they land on that box, they can use the vocabulary in different ways, here are some suggestions:

Novice Mid: Identify the vocabulary word

Novice High: Use the vocabulary word in a sentence

Intermediate Low: Create a question for the group based on the vocabulary word

Intermediate Mid: Provide a definition of the vocabulary word

There are some spaces where students can lose a turn or jump ahead on the board. You can set a timer for seven to ten minutes and whomever is furthest along/reaches the end, is your winner!

BOMBA (you will need empty tissue boxes*)

Students can play in groups of three to four and you will need to print the cards/cut out the individual cards in advance. You can throw in a few or many bombas or bombs to keep the game interesting.

Using an empty tissue box, students must grab one of the cards and correctly identify the vocabulary word. And, also similar to the game board, you can have students level up their use of the target language by trying any of the above in addition to simple vocabulary identification. If the student identifies the image correctly, they get to keep the card and that equates to “one point”. If the student draws one of the bombas or bombs, they have to put all of their cards back into the tissue box and start from zero points. For this game, I like to set a timer for at least ten minutes to give everyone an opportunity to go at least a few times & win back their cards if they lose it to a bomba/bomb pull.

*An alternate way to play if you are unable to locate enough tissue boxes is to have students simply pile up all of the cards (mixed up) and have them face down. As they turn over each card, they must identify the vocabulary word correctly & can keep the point. But if a bomb is drawn, they have to put their cards back into the pile, face down and start again.

ROLL THE DICE (you will need dice*)

Rolling both dice at the same time, students will “land” on a particular image and can identify, create a sentence, create a question or provide a definition of the word. They can also describe the image using context clues as an additional way to practice the vocabulary. You can also have students practice writing instead of speaking with this activity and the goal may be to create at least ten sentences using the images.


BUZZ IN: Divide the class into two teams, each team sends up a representative for each round. Students place their hands on their head and there is a buzzer located between the two students. They must “buzz in” the correct response to win a point for their team. The teacher displays one flashcard, the students must either identify, create a sentence/question or provide a definition to earn a point for their team.

PARTNER/PASS: I like this game as a simple warm up or closure activity. Each student has their own individual flashcard and they must rotate around the room, identifying what they see displayed by their partner and then swap (as long as they both correctly identify the image). Students try to swap as many times as possible within a five to seven minute time limit.

TRUE/FALSE: The students are divided into four teams and they each have their own stack of individual flashcards. They hold up their flashcard to the class and make a statement (it can either be true or false) about the image. Their peers can “buzz in” their response or use wipe board to reply with either true or false to earn the point for their own team.

RELAY RACE: Students are divided into at least four teams, each team has one marker (*different color) and each team has their own individual flashcards (5-7 cards). Students must race to different areas of the classroom (I recommend hanging up the long post it paper) and create sentences using their individual flashcards. The first team to create all of their sentences (and they are correct) win!

RUNNING DICTATION: Students work with a partner and must correctly identify what is posted in the hallway. One student is considered the “runner” while the other student must remain in the classroom & scribe. They can also swap roles after a few minutes, so each student gets a chance to go in the hallway or write. The student in the classroom has six or eight blank boxes that they must correctly fill to match what is in the hallway. The teacher can post the individual flashcards with different numbers outside of their classroom. Make sure you keep your doors wide open, as students tend to bump into each other with this game!

UNFAIR GAME: I learned about the Unfair Game thanks to attending one of Martina Bex’s workshops. You can also learn more by visiting The Comprehensible Classroom.

Divide the class into two, three or four teams. The teacher holds the stack of individual flashcards face down and shows one team one card at a time. *Behind each card, the teacher has added a stickie note with either + points or – points. If the team correctly identifies the vocabulary word (uses it in a sentence, creates a question, provides a definition, etc.) they can either choose to keep the points or give the points to another team. Regardless if the students keep or give the points away, they have the chance of either ending up with positive points or negative points, which is why this game is so unfair! Make sure you have a student help keep track of all of the points for each team, it can become a bit confusing!

*Each game packet contains some extension activities as well, to help reinforce the vocabulary and give students the opportunity to use the vocabulary with target structures and in new ways!

I hope to have given you some new ideas or perhaps helped remind you of the many fun ways you can repeat & recycle vocabulary with your students but still keep it interesting, fun & engaging!

Please feel free to share any other no-tech games that you enjoy playing with our own students and add to the comments below! 🙂


Bitmoji Classrooms?

Each summer day, I explore more questions than answers with starting the new 2020-2021 school year. It has become increasingly difficult to plan with so many unknowns, however- we can all agree upon- continuing to have some form of instruction, virtually. I consider very closely how we will all keep ourselves safe, how we will engage students in meaningful language learning experiences, and which {virtual} classroom routines will become our “new normal” for the following school year.

With these wonderings, I opted to join a variety of Facebook educator groups. There was tremendous insight & sharing that I kept seeing amongst educators and I felt inspired to catch up within these forums. I also considered how an asynchronous platform would work within a Spanish class and what benefits would come from allowing students to explore a virtual space (similar to a choice board) with meaningful learning immersion opportunities for self-guided & self-paced learning.

Joining the Bitmoji Craze for Educators Facebook group has been amazing! I quickly learned that the folks within this group are incredibly creative and collaborative.  Each day, hundreds of educators share their creations & links to download/copy. I began to compile all of these shares & presentations within a Google Folder. And, I kept reading about how educators were using Bitmojis with a future virtual class setting in mind.

Bitmoji Image

Here are some ideas/presentations that I have seen, thanks to the group! *Please provide credit to the Bitmoji Craze for Educators Group and do not attempt to profit by selling their (our) work on TpT. Also, please MAKE A COPY

Bitmoji Classroom for Students (imagine anywhere in the school that comes to life! Culinary Arts, Music, Gymnasium, Main Office, etc.)

“Meet The Teacher” Bitmoji Classroom 

Classroom Libraries (with themes!)

Virtual Field Trips / Around the World 

Meet the Student” Bitmoji Virtual Locker Shares

Choice/Menu Board Spaces (Choice Board Folder)

Bitmoji Virtual Art Gallery

So…after all of a lot of viewing examples and great ideas, I opted to create my own with the purpose of creating an asynchronous learning platform for Spanish II students at the beginning of the school year, with our first unit: Exploring Our Interests. I created a quick overview video of my below steps as well.

Step 1: Since I already had the Bitmoji app on my phone, I went to the Chrome Store and added the Bitmoji extension to my browser. This allowed me to search for my Bitmoji and later add it to my classroom space.

Step 2: Using the resources compiled from the Bitmoji Craze for Educators Facebook group, I selected a classroom background. I opted for a traditional classroom space but there are SOOOO many other great options!

Step 3: After selecting a background, I began to add furniture, posters, plants, rugs, books, etc. I wanted the space to replicate what my actual classroom may look like.  Thanks to the Bitmoji Craze for Educators group, I had a bunch of items, ready to go- without backgrounds! I compiled those generous & general resources here.

Step 4: After the new virtual space seemed to be coming together, I began to add links to the different items around the room. This would send students on virtual journeys all around Spain with what may/may not interest us in mind! I added links to articles, music, podcasts, and videos,  I’m still working on the books/library portion! Teachers have also included direct links to different online activities for students to complete. Either way, I am continuing to lead this unit with culture!

Here is my sample Spanish II classroom, please make a COPY! 

Spanish II Bitmoji.png

So, the “hard” part felt like it was over- my classroom space had been designed, and now, from week to week, I could make a copy and invite students to a different virtual exploration based on our unit of study, independently. I am also continuing to follow the buzz on both Facebook & Twitter with the intention of making these spaces more personalized, I would like to use unscreen.com to put my actual self into the classroom space (#BeTheBitmoji)! I so appreciated the shares & video tutorials on Twitter by Esther Park! And, I am still designing a few general options for self-paced, guided instruction through the help of SlidesMania templates such as this template…..or this template. There are so many options out thereselecting ONE and sticking with it is KEY!

Regardless of what you select as your tool for asynchronous instruction, be comfortable with using it as part of your weekly routine! Whether you select to create a Bitmoji space, weekly Google Slide agenda, or a learning module platform, be consistent with how you deliver your asynchronous expectations/ instruction and make sure your students feel comfortable accessing this space as part of your classroom routine.

Best wishes in your creative design & planning! Please feel free to share your creations below or within the Bitmoji Craze for Educators Facebook group!


Bitmoji Image

Virtually Ending our School Year

Last week, New Jersey’s Governor Murphy announced that we would not return to our schools due to health safety concerns with COVID-19 continuing to take the lives of our loved ones across the state, the nation & around the world. It was a sad day to receive this news, but the creative brainstorming started soon after!

How can we best highlight our students & all of their progress this past year in each of our courses? 

Understanding how different our typical “end of the year” activities and celebrations would be this school year, we started sharing ideas as a team this past week. It was important to start to discuss how to conclude our courses- with reflection, growth & feedback at the heart of our conversations with students and culminating tasks demonstrating their abilities in each mode.

We opted to plan backward, with the final school “day” June 16th. Here are some ideas we came up with, please be sure to make a copy first (all documents are in view mode) and then appropriate edits to better match your course.

(1) Self-Reflection Survey (Example Document/Google Form): Many teachers connect with their students mid-way through the year and again, at the end of the school year to check-in & also have students think back on all they have learned over the course of several months together through a survey. This survey asks students to identify what they felt proud in accomplishing over the past year, which areas they would like to improve (goal setting over the summer) and also provides the teacher with feedback as to which activities students felt most successful.  Teachers also discussed adding components to the survey to share “best works” or add in speaking or writing prompt based on a past unit. This survey can be modified and you are welcome to make changes & re-share your new & evolved version of this self-reflective end of year WL survey. 

(2) Small-Group or Individual Conferences (Example Document): The one on one discussion or small group conference is an important way to connect with students, although it will have to be over a video conferencing tool such as Google Meet or Zoom. By setting up a time to connect with each of your students before the final day officially gets here, this interaction fosters the students to reflect on individual growth, progress, and their own goal-setting for over the summer/into the next school year. Consider asking students: How have you improved this year? What are you most proud of? What did you enjoy most about learning {insert language}? How do you plan to use {insert language} over the summer/in the future? What would you like to improve upon? What goals can you set for yourself that are manageable and achievable? *Students can also fill out a self-reflective survey prior to joining the conference with their teacher- if you select in the Form that the respondent always receives a copy of their responses (under settings), they can come to the meeting with that copy & you can collaboratively discuss their previous reflections. 

(3) Asynchronous multi-modal slideshow (Example Document): Let’s not call it an IPA but it does have the components of an IPA! 🙂 Wrapping up the end of the year by assessing students’ interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational skills is a great way to see how much progress they have made- given the units & topics studied throughout the year. Since trusting grade-worthy submissions can be incredibly hard right now due to our unhelpful amigo Google translate, providing tasks that students should be able to do with ease & comfort is the way to go.  Feedback through a voice recording file (tools like Vocaroo or Kaizena, Slides add-on) is also wonderful, so students can hear your feedback & hear your comments about their demonstrated progress. 

(4) Choice Boardin the modes! (Example Documents): Teachers have been creating really neat choice board activities for their students during remote instruction- Leslie Grahn (@grahnforlang) and Liliana Lopez (@senoralopez) inspired me to create a Pascack choice board (in the Google Folder). During our past team discussions, we brainstormed creating a Choice Board with each column (three total) with different activities for students to do/submit in each of the modes. Here is a Level I example below of an end of the year-mode specific choice board for students: 


*Listening/Reading Activities


*Two-way speaking 

or writing Activities


*One-way speaking 

or writing Activities

Submit a screenshot of your top Duolingo score by Friday, June 12th! 

Continue with your multi-day streak this summer!

Call a classmate using Google Meet (coordinate a good time) and record your conversation all about your family. 

Create an Instagram story video highlighting how you spend your school day from home!

Select three videos to watch on LyricsTraining & submit a screenshot of your final scores. 

Spanish     French  

Italian   Chinese

Start a conversation using G-chat with one of your classmates, discuss your favorite activities, and what your plans are for the upcoming weekend.

Create a flyer about our school using Canva– share all about school life, classes & activities. 

Go to: Audio Lingua and select at least two recordings in the target language.  

Create a list of keywords from each of the recordings and write short summaries in English

Use the Flipgrid prompt provided for June 2020 and record your video response to the questions provided. 

Comment on at least two classmates  videos by Friday, June 12th!

Using Google Arts & Culturetake an Art-Selfie! Install the app, click on the camera option and then select “Art-Selfie”. 

Share your new selfie with your teacher and write a short paragraph about the original work of art in the language you are studying. 

Additional Culminating Activity Ideas:

-Divide students into small groups, assign a review topic, students create an online game to share with peers (to play either synchronously or asynchronously)

-Collaborate by creating a Class Blog Post/Reflections/Website to end the year based on different topics

ePortfolios : select three to four of your best work from the year, add to Google Folder, write a reflective paragraph about these best works, reflections for continuation in the language- set learning goals

-Letter to Ourselves: Write a letter (template thanks to SlidesMania*) to yourself in the language you are studying- all about the past & present school year, digitally submit, the teacher provides feedback

With so much going on, thank you for taking the time to read these end-of-year ideas & feel free to add comments below or share any great document back my way!


Virtual Learning: Here we go!

For some time, we have been amidst a culture where learning from home is becoming more common. While I appreciate learning from the comfort of my own home, the socialization piece and interaction that we get with actually connecting in person can never truly be replaced by technology. However, when schools are faced to close but still anticipated to keep students engaged in learning, teachers can continue to be highly effective in a virtual setting.

Great teachers ARE great teachers- no matter what! 

Like many of us, we are in preparation mode of what school may look like from a virtual platform. Bloggers such as Martina Bex (@MartinaBex, The Comprehensible Classroom,  SOMOS) and Samara Spielberg (@SamaraSpielberg) have started to spin their wheels and share with our online #langchat community.

Martina has shared a recent blog post titled, “Lesson plans for COVID-19 school closure / 10+ days of Spanish ” where a Spanish teacher can download a ten-day outline for their classes while Samara has put together a GoogleSlides presentation via Twitter outlining an opportunity to create an activity portfolio by earning points!


Thanks to them, I was inspired to create this presentation to highlight both synchronous & asynchronous opportunities to use technology with students.

Screen Shot 2020-03-08 at 5.48.57 PM.png

In both 2014 and 2016, my district (@pvrhsd Pascack Valley Regional HS District) held classes virtually. Dr. Barry Bachenheimer (@drbachenheimer) and I presented about the PVR Virtual Day and our reflections on moving forward.

In 2016, the district elected to take two virtual days on Feb 2nd & Feb 3rd in between semesters. Here is an outline of what the creative teachers throughout the Family & Consumer Science, Music and World Languages department organized for students learning from home.

I’ve also conducted online World Language Methodology courses both synchronously and asynchronously throughout different semesters when teaching at Rutgers, The Graduate School of Education in New Brunswick, NJ. Here were some of my “virtual” classes using Google Slides. (Spring 2017 // Spring 2019)

Although school may not in session, the goal should continue to be an immersion of comprehensible input for students. Whether you locate the resources or create short videos/readings, students should still engage their brains in the target language for at least ten to fifteen each day and provide feedback to the teacher that they understood.

For World Language teachers, some general ideas for several weeks of a school closure:

Viewing a Show/Series or Listening to Podcast Channel: Whether you’ve located an amazing video series or a podcast channel, students can continue listening to the target language at either novice-intermediate-advanced levels. As their teacher, you know what students can handle with independence, therefore, similar to how we select novels (“easier” is always better!)- 90% of what they are listening to/watching should be understood. The activities selected to share how well they understood what they heard/watched can be tailored to their level through “choice boards“.

Authentic Videos         Videos for Children.       We Listen.

Let’s Read! Select either a whole class reader or select their own reader of choice (Free Voluntary Reading). Each day, students provide a summarization of each chapter through a written discussion post using Canvas, Google Doc, Padlet OR a video summarization through FlipGrid or Extempore. If novice students are unable to share a spoken or written summarization, students can create a visual depiction of the beginning-middle-end of the chapter and upload a photo to Google Slides or their individual Padlet space. 

As of March 10th*, I created a generic reading log for chapters 1-6 of any reader. You can view the presentation/make a copy here. Please modify to better suit your students & their reading level. I hope this helps in your planning & preparation! 

Readers from Fluency Matters, TPRS Books            Children’s Stories

Research, Reflect, Respond! Consider using the United Nation’s 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development and a Project-Based Learning model with students- engaging them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. Students can decide in advance which topic is of most importance to them and opt to work collaboratively with their peers in small groups, partnerships or on their own. Either way, they can log their progress with researching the issue, reflecting on possible solutions and then using a collaborative platform to share their thoughts/responses to the problem. 

World’s Largest Lesson.      Social Justice Standards.      PBL Works.

Laura Sexton’s PBL in the TL Blog (@SraSpanglish) 

I hope that this blog is helpful for those of you who are exploring ways to transform your physical classrooms into new virtual spaces with potential school closures. Should you have any questions about any of the technology tools, ideas or information highlighted, please reach out. We are all here to support one another and work together! 

@SrtaNRodriguez   //  nrodriguez@pascack.org //  srta.nrodriguez@gmail.com

NADFSL & ACTFL 2019 Reflections

It has been a whole week since I attended both NADSFL & ACTFL conferences in Washington, DC and what a great experience it was! I spent time with supervisory colleagues, met some Twitter pals in person and attended fantastic workshops!


This year, I opted to follow the suggestions from my amigos at Fluency Matters & one of my favorite bloggers, Martina Bex! All of the session recommendations DID not disappoint and my focus was on learning more about technology tools, CI techniques, and further developing intercultural competence in ALL learners through empathy, social justice and achieving global competence with both inquiry & investigations.

My NASDFL/ACTFL 2019 Takeaways Slideshow can be found here,

along with a short video I created for my Pascack team. 

Thanks to the support of my school district, I have been able to attend the ACTFL conferences for the past several years. A compiled list of previous takeaways & reflections from these conferences is shared below.

*ACTFL 2016 Collaborative Notes  Resource Folder  Dept Mtg EdCamp Shares (Boston, Massachusetts)

*NADSFL & ACTFL 2017: NADSFL/ACTFL Takeaways Slideshow  Video Overview (Nashville, Tennesse)

*NADSFL & ACTFL 2018: NADSFL/ACTFL Takeaways Slideshow    Video Overview (New Orleans, Louisana) 

Also! I recently registered for the upcoming NECTFL 2020 Conference in New York City! Here are some of my previous highlights from attending this insightful regional conference! We have incredibly talented World Language educators in the Northeast region!

NECTFL 2017: Collaborative Notes  Resource Folder (New York, New York)

NECTFL 2018: NECTFL Takeaways Slideshow   Video Overview (New York, New York)

NECTFL 2019: NECTFL Takeaways Slideshow   Video Overview (New York, New York)





Have you MovieTalked yet?

My world language friends, it is TIME to try the technique: Movie Talk if you haven’t yet! 

Last week, I had the opportunity to work with teachers from Southern New Jersey, about sixty World Language teachers came together on Friday afternoon as part of the “LRCC”. The fact that this district has so many world language teachers is amazing!

We delved deep into three main areas: Planning & Preparation, Assessment Design & Classroom Experience and we used information from the TELL project to help guide our reflective questioning & ideas shared.

As many teachers had expressed their interest in learning more “CI” based methods, I shared a few techniques with the whole group. Here is the compiled list below.

Total Physical Response


Visual Prompts 

Teaching Proficiency Through Reading & Storytelling


Station Activities


Gesture Reading Circling

Reader’s Theatre Socrative Seminar

Embedded Reading Reciprocal Reading  (Informational Text)

Literature Circles (Narrative Text) Writers Workshop

Brain Breaks Pre-During-Post Reading Strategies

My focus was set on MovieTalk as an interpretive listening technique and I was able to provide a short demonstration using a silent film from the series: Simon’s Cat. Since it was Valentine’s Day the day before, I thought a film about “amor” would be appropriate. This could have also served as a catalyst for discussing & exploring how other cultures celebrate Valentine’s Day or how others show love or kindness to one another.

First, I created a script and then pulled out important vocabulary words that I would highlight & make sure to repeat during the actual MovieTalk. Then, I designed pre-viewing and after-viewing activities for novice learners of Spanish. I also created a “cheat sheet” for myself and placed it in the back of the “classroom” so I could keep repeating my selected keywords.

Key Vocabulary:  Hay,  juega(n), rasca(n), se limpia(n), quiere, mariposa

MovieTalk Demonstration Video: Simon’s Cat

MovieTalk Presentation (with resources!)

Prior to viewing this video, I had the keywords/structures on eraseable cubes for each table to “roll” and either: draw, define or use the word in a sentence. This became my “pre-viewing” activity but there are so many other ways to get students to interact with key vocabulary prior to actually viewing the film. After I conducted a MovieTalk (approx. 14 minutes), the participants were handed envelopes with sentence strips and they had to put the sequence of events in order at their tables. Both activities selected were created with the Novice learner in mind and I really tried to gauge the attention of the non-Spanish speaking individuals in the room throughout this demonstration. Throughout the workshop, participants/students were using their interpersonal speaking abilities, interpretive listening and interpretive reading skills throughout the activities planned. If I wanted to take it a step forward, I could have the participants/students focus on presentational writing/speaking however, I was providing this demo for really “first year, first day/week” Spanish students, so I opted to delay any forced output so soon in the school year but rely on other methods to check for comprehension & understanding.

I have a Pinterest board dedicated to Silent Films and this is a MovieTalk Database that I have used in the past. But you can really use anything if you turn off the sound such as commercials or music videos!

In 2015, at both the FLENJ & ACTFL conferences, I also highlighted MovieTalk as a powerful technique for all World Language teachers. Here is the link to that Prezi presentation.

I have witnessed excellent MovieTalks thanks to the educators who are willing to share, such as Martina Bex & Alina Filipescu, I highly recommend watching others before starting!

Any ideas or comments are welcome below! I look forward to learning about your experience with using the MovieTalk technique with your classes!





Culture is my Daily Catalyst!

A few months ago I had the opportunity to teach Spanish III and we began with the unit, “Stories of the Past, Dreams of the Future”.  It was wonderful to return to the classroom and below I share my journey with this common Level III unit.

The unit’s communicative functions & essential questions are:

-Recount the past

-Describe how life used to be

-Compare/contrast life in the past to the present

-Compare/contrast present life to the future

-Predict the future

-Discuss future endeavors

-How does our past define who we are?

-How does our present shape our future?

And the department established “target questions” to help guide the daily focus of the unit, providing flexibility but also addressing the essential questions & communicative functions.

Level III Targets.png

Working with department colleagues, we established that we would utilize the reader, “La Llorona de Mazatlan” and planned our unit with the reader in mind, with a focus on Mexican culture, stories & legends.

As I began with this unit, I had an approximate window of when this unit would conclude and the different points of entry that I wanted to explore with students, based on the upcoming reader, vocabulary & structures necessary to address these communicative goals. I also started the school year with this unit and choose to focus primarily on describing past events & actions. So I began to plan out my weeks….

Week 1/2: Getting to Know Each Other, Establishing a Classroom Community/Goals & Descriptions of Summer Vacations  (Google Slideshow) 

Getting to know students and establishing a positive classroom culture is a key ingredient from day one. One way I approached this concept was doing a “Breakout” with students. Thanks to Kristine Keefe-Hasan (@kkeefe_hasan) aka LaProfeAlta, I was introduced to her breakout, Gozadera, which had the students working in teams to try to unlock the puzzles! It was neat to see them working together to build our classroom community during the first few days together. I also used Canva to design my Spanish III syllabus, which was a different way to approach the typical first-day class outline. (rodriguez syllabus espanol iii)

I started off by describing what I had done for the Summer of 2018 and ironically, I had recently taken a trip to Mexico with my family. I was able to provide input through images and video of my experience and as a pre-assessment for students, asked that the students share the same through the creation of a Screencast video of their summer vacations. This provided me with immediate insight as to how well the students could describe past events and from this, I changed my instructional practices to further emphasize descriptions in the past. 

Week 3: Highlighting Famous Spanish-Speaking Individuals  (Google Slideshow)

After the first class meeting, I knew the students needed way more input! I selected the biographical reader, Vidas Impactantes, and broke the class into six different groups, to allow students to become “experts” on a particular Spanish-speaking individual and to also highlight Hispanic Heritage Month. Students read in class and I utilized the literacy technique of “Reciprocal Reading” as students alternated which role they played as they read in small groups. As a follow-up assessment, students created informative Google Slideshows about their individual to be shared with the class. They were also given an interpretive reading and presentational writing assessment/quiz focused on key vocabulary. This key vocabulary pulled from Vidas Impactantes had a direct correlation to the unit’s essential questions & the upcoming reader: La Llorona. 

Week 4/5: El Pasado: Leyendas Mexicanas (Google Slideshow)

These weeks were served as recycling vocabulary from La Llorona, so I continued with my emphasis on input by providing students with (4) Mexican legends that we would read together and discuss. I also provided vocabulary lists through Quizlet, which students practiced with vocabulary both in/out of class. I displayed these lists for students to view & we also “acted” out the words as a whole group.

I utilized different reading techniques such as volleyball translation, whole group reading, popsicle stick reading (randomly calling on students to continue), paired reading and stop/summarize reading. Each legend that students read was read differently. After reading and discussing these different legends, students discussed which was their “favorite” and interviewed my sister-in-law via Skype, who happens to be from Mexico. I also used the song & music video, “Robarte un beso” to emphasize my sister-in-law’s favorite legend: El Callejón del Beso. 

Week 6/7/8: La Llorona, Our IPA, The Reader & Mexico: El Presente (Google Slideshow 1 , 2 ) 

Before diving into the reader, “La Llorona”, I wanted to build background knowledge for the students about this legend. Students completed an EdPuzzle activity for homework and I conducted a MovieTalk narrating the legend using a Youtube video. I posted the La Llorona vocabulary in the back of the classroom, so as I retold the story, I could continue to recycle/emphasize certain words.

At this point, I felt the students were ready to engage in a summative Integrated Performance Assessment with the emphasis of Mexican Legends. Students were provided a different version of La Llorona to read & respond to questions as their interpretive portion, students engaged in a Writers Workshop process by re-writing their own version of their favorite Mexican legend and finally, students had to re-tell their stories/ask questions about one another’s favorite legends for their interpersonal portion via FlipGrid.  Questions posed to assist with their conversations were as follows: 

Describa tu leyenda mexicana a tu compañero. 

¿Quién es parte de tu leyenda?  ¿Qué pasó?

¿Cómo terminó tu leyenda?  ¿Te gustó la leyenda? ¿Por qué?

We began to read the reader as a class and at this point, because of the backward design process and all of the “preloading” of the important vocabulary that was coming up in this reader, students were able to comprehend 90-95% of the story. In one of the beginning chapter, a discussion between the main character and her father takes place about whether or not Mexico is a safe country. We paused as a class to explore this question and I used materials created by the wonderful Kara Jacobs (@karacjacobs) 

Unidad Didáctica: Narcoviolencia en México

to discuss narco-violence. Taking it a step further and hoping to have students further connect, my brother who is a police officer shared via Google Hangouts how widespread the Mexican cartel violence truly is as he described some of his experiences with local gangs and hostage situations. Please know that my intention was not to scare these 10th/11th-grade students but to ensure that they are aware that these crimes are happening globally and also, affecting our communities locally in New Jersey. 

Hagan ahora.png

A wonderful aspect about these culturally relevant readers is that it does provide a teacher with moments to transition for a bit outside of the reader and dive into a topic that is compelling/interesting for the students to explore & discuss. 

My short experience with teaching Spanish III proved that you can utilize common curriculum documents, essential questions, and communicative functions but still allow culture to guide the path & planning of daily lessons. I chose to emphasize Mexico, Mexican culture and legends but there are many different ways one can go to reach that same goal of utilizing a culturally relevant reader with students for communicative purposes!

*A special thank you to Ms. Courtney Farrell (@SrtaFarrell) & Mrs. Ivica Kanova (@ikanova1), Teachers of Spanish at Pascack Valley High School, who served as tremendous resources throughout my planning & unit creation. It was through this collegial collaboration that I gained many new ideas & perspectives! 




10th grader For The Day

My Monday began in a new fashion, where I found myself curious about how my day would be. There were no meetings to attend, lesson plans to review or phone calls to make.

Today was new and quite different because I was going to school to shadow a 10th grade student and experience what a day is like in the shoes of a Pascack Valley High School student.

I was nervous yet excited to experience high school again but this time through the lens of an educator. What would be my biggest takeaways and what would I do differently going forward after such a unique experience?

Takeaway #1: High School is Hard.

With a seven-period day and common lunch, I found myself exhausted at the end of the day and luckily there were no clubs or sports scheduled after school. In each class period, there were different expectations and I had to demonstrate my knowledge in a variety of ways. I found myself to be quite challenged in my chemistry class but at ease in Honors Spanish (naturally 🙂 Each teacher found different ways to connect his or her students to the goal(s) of the lesson and I appreciated the collaborative classroom dynamics but also rigor I encountered from each learning experience.

Takeaway #2: The LMS works.

Canvas, an LMS or learning management tool, was used in almost every class which made it easy to access documents or links needed for the day. With all of my teachers using the same tool, there was no second guessing where to go to find what was needed for the day or week. I had immediate access to all documents, videos, links, etc. that I needed and this was a relief. I didn’t have to spend time searching or wondering where teachers placed our tools, it was simple to access and made me feel comfortable, being that it was my first time in that class.

 Takeaway #3: Our Kids are Happy.

Throughout the day and in my discussions with my new peers, students were positive and had comments of content/happiness with their high school experience. Students were open and honest about their schedules, exams and upcoming deadlines. It made me consider the mental wellness initiatives that the district has explored and the Wellness Centers made available to the student body and also the unique schedule. I appreciated seeing how the students respected their teachers and were able to joke around with many due to their comfort with the individual. It was clear that students felt at ease as we all shuffled together throughout the day and the rhythm that it is to be a PV high school student. It is a unique rhythm filled with opportunity, challenges, and comfort. 

As my day came to an end with the dismissal bell at 2:51pm, I began to process what I had experienced. I thought a lot about each of the above takeaways and how we can continue to do our best for our students and their futures.

Classes that inspired creativity and collaboration were my favorite of the day. When I was able to put either my hands or brain to work, I felt that the class period truly flew by. Starting my day with Culinary Arts was certainly refreshing! The accessibility of content and information through the district-wide LMS assisted me locate what I needed and what I had to do. This provided me with both comfort and a sense of ownership/time management skills. And finally, knowing that the school culture that I experienced was both friendly and positive, I felt proud to be part of such a culture.

So, as an educator, create lessons which will inspire creativity & collaboration amongst your students. No more spoon feeding or lecturing, let them discover the knowledge needed and use it to problem solve, create or justify their findings. The best classroom experiences were the ones in which I was able to work with my peers and learn with one another. The teachers made me feel comfortable and helped to guide me. The collaboration piece was empowering and I appreciated the dialogue that I had with my “peers”.

Looking ahead, examine your own lessons from the lens of a student- How engaged would you be if you were experiencing your own class? Would you want to be a student in your own class?  Take time to build positive, trustworthy relationships with your students and make sure that they are in the forefront of each experience you create, each day.

It is easy to forget what life is like as a high school student. I encourage all educators to get back in the classroom and take time to see what life is really like, from behind that student desk.

For additional ideas & insight, visit http://shadowastudent.org/

*A special thank you to NZ for her patience and assistance throughout my day. She is an extremely respectful, kind and diligent 10th grader. It was an absolute pleasure to shadow and learn from her. 




#becausewecan Reflections

Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting quite often about teacher empowerment and leadership. I think about the dedicated individuals who serve our students each day and the growth amongst those who are willing to share and learn with others. We do, what we do, #becausewecan.

This year I am organizing and coordinating two upcoming professional development events that a few years ago, did not think were possible. Two events that will hopefully inspire growth and improvement in teaching methodologies, instructional activities, and proficiency-based assessments within world language classrooms. Two events that wouldn’t be possible without other volunteers and like-minded colleagues who believe in the power of collaboration. Two events that are taking an incredible amount of my own personal time but will hopefully be well worth it, for everyone who attends.

Ultimately, each event is unique but in both circumstances, my own personal motivation to work as tirelessly as I do to create such learning opportunities for teachers, is the same. In this profession, you can’t “know it all” and it is impossible to feel that you did an outstanding job with every single aspect of your instruction and assessments. In education, there is always “something” we can try, “something” we can explore and “something” that we can share with our colleagues. It is with this curiosity or rather thirst for knowledge is where I find myself. I continuously look at how I can improve, how I can better reach/engage students and ultimately, how I can instill a love for communicating in another language with all my students.

I am asked, “Why are you doing all of this? Why are you so involved?” The answer is simple: I want to help teachers. I want to share, learn and grow with everyone. I want to help empower teachers to feel equipped with their own set of “tools” and “tricks” when they walk back into their own classrooms. I want world language classes and programs to have great meaning within communities. I want our students to graduate and think about how amazing their world language class was/how useful it was to pay attention in class when they land that bilingual position. I want our students to continue their love for languages as adults.

When you surround yourself with passionate, creative and hardworking educators, great things CAN and DO happen.

I’m looking forward to the 2016 WL Tech Institute (@WLTechInstitute) and EdCampWL (@edcampWL). Two events that are possible #becausewecan.

WL Tech Institute LogoWL Tech Institute Flyer

Screenshot 2016-06-21 18.43.19  *If you are interested in starting your own #edcamp, check out http://www.edcamp.org/ for great resources and ideas! I love how schools are using the #edcamp model with both teachers and students! Talk about empowering all learners! 😀 


GIFs for Output!

Once again, a colleague shared with me an amazing, free website that made me jump up and down with techie excitement!

GIF or Graphic Interchange Format are short, video files that have been compressed and are usually quite entertaining.


For creative output, try the following activities with your students:

-Use GIFs to teach new vocabulary/spark vocabulary knowledge

-Students add their voice or text narration to a presentation with GIFs; create a personal vocabulary journal using GIFs

-Teacher created screencast using GIFs, students view and write a dialogue between the characters

-Display a GIF, students write a sentence or short story (before, during video, after) for each video prompt

-GIF Gallery Walk: Set up barcodes around your classroom, linked to different GIFs, students must write a descriptive sentence for each video viewed

-Have students create a digital story using GIFs

-Present a series of GIFs to the students, they put the GIFs into order and explain why

-Embed files into a Prezi, students view the prezi and compose an email to the main character asking about his/her day

-Challenge your students to create and narrate their own GIFs using this site

Please feel free to share your own ideas and comments below! 🙂