Personality Profiles/Self Assessment Survey

As we all plan to “go back” and meet our new group of young minds to transform into Spanish speaking geniuses, I have been working on a “Get-to-know-you” Google form for students to fill out during the first week back. The survey has been designed to get to know student’s interests, self assess on their Spanish speaking/writing/reading/listening abilities and any obstacles and/or future goals they have for themselves. By starting off the year with a goal in mind, at the midway point in the year, I like to one on one conference with students to see whether or not they have met the language goal they had proposed and if they haven’t or are still working towards it, they are then asked to state at least two actions that are reasonable and realistic to help them attain this goal by the end of the school year. Students, although nervous, have reflected in their “Yo aprendí” journals that they like goal-setting and reminders that I make for them.

{Yo aprendí.. journals are where students provide a short writing sample, demonstrating their knowledge of the targeted structures and also reflect on how they feel they did during this unit of study. At the end of the school year, students re-read each of their entries and select the one they are most proud of, to include in the “letter to themselves” as part of their end of year reflection} 

The get-to-know-you survey is comprised of three sections:

(1) Basic background information, interests both in school & out of school

(2) Statements using “I can or Yo Puedo” and a rating scale of: Nunca/Never, No mucho/Not a lot, A veces/Sometimes, Posiblemente/Possibly and Por Supuesto/Definately. The statements are written in Spanish/English for novice learners.

For example: Puedo hablar con una pronunciación buena en español. / Puedo escribir oraciones en español. / Puedo hacer preguntas en español. / Puedo expresar ideas importantes en español.

(3) Past difficulties in learning Spanish (if any 🙂 & Goals/Hopes/Learning Aspirations for this coming school year

Every teacher may have a different perspective on what information is important to collect in the beginning of the year. Some may also like to include contact information of parents and birthday information from each student. Tailor your survey to fulfill what information you feel is important to gather about each of your students.

We all understand that it is important to get to know our students and begin to forge relationships right from the first day. By developing strong connections with students, classroom teachers are able to establish climates of respect and mutual understanding in caring, nurturing environments, where student success is celebrated {no matter how big or small!} and learning becomes contagious.

How will you begin your new school year?


Música {and music videos} in the language classroom

Traditionally, music has always been a source of inspiration for world language teachers. Cultural themes, customs and rich vocabulary are useful tools within the songs created by various musicians around the world. The trick becomes how we as educators utilize this music to its fullest potential, making it not only linguistically appropriate/comprehensible but also fun to sing along to and learn!

There are a few free tools and websites that are out there to help us navigate through the millions of songs that are out there.

First, let’s talk resources; here are some of my “go-to” music websites for Spanish. Feel free to add your own comments with additional sources that you like to use.

For #authres:

Bilblioteca Musical:


Zambombazo {Cancionero}:

TodoELE {Canciones}:

El Mundo Birch:

Youtube {different channels}:



For non-natives/ELE:


Senor Wooly:

Realidades I, II y III {Canciones de HipHop}

Next, my recent favorite, eduCanon. Recently shared by some of the teachers I have the privilege to work with, this website allows you to take ANY video (whether it was created by you or from any online video source such as YouTube) and the user can embed questions throughout. It takes a little practice initially to get the hang of it and there are other websites that are popping up which are very similar but in my opinion, eduCanon is the most user friendly. The teacher can set up videos in advance, to questions in the target language and as the student self navigates, he or she can select an answer and gain immediate feedback on whether or not they got it right. This tool can be used in any discipline, with any grade. What a neat way to begin class, end class or assign as an independent practice activity. By embedding music videos into eduCanon, the teacher can pose questions about the actual video or the music lyrics that may appear. Here is a sample video I created in English using a great silent film source: Simon’s Cat.

Once you have identified an appropriate song for your learners, begin to design your lesson around the text in the song. Let’s build in some {activities} to bring the music to life for students. Conduct a pre-reading/pre-viewing activity for the song, a while reading/viewing/listening activity and finish up with a post-reading/viewing activity.

Simple activities involving music:

-Have students describe how they feel when listening to the music, in #140charactersorless: write a mini story to go with the music & emotions, post to Twitter or a learning management site used {Edmodo, Schoology, Canvas, etc}, share their stories in small groups, collaborate using Google Docs to create a unique tale based on the music they hear, present their stories to the class {act it out, swap stories with another group, re-enact silently: have classmates reinvent the original story}

-Have students preview vocabulary by using two different colored highlighters to identify words they know and words they do not know, as a class, review meanings of new words through gestures, images, other definitions in the target language, listen to the song- fill in the blanks of missing, *key words, discuss theme of the music, create their own song based on the theme of the song, use musical instruments, come up with a dance for the new song, post new song on Google Slides and share with others, vote on favorite class song.

-Ask students an essential question involving the theme of the song: to help get a discussion going about what the song is about, use Padlet to share responses on a group discussion board, have students listen to the music or watch video: while watching, have students write two connections to the music on a post-it note, share as a group those connections with a simple inflatable ball toss, use for students to replay the video independently and choose the appropriate word individually/teams, use eduCanon to replay the video with questions embedded at teacher selected moments within the video, have students participate in a “lip sync” competition with “rounds” in small groups: using the same song (or various tunes from the school year) students lip sync to one song, “battle” individually against a different group member and/or individual lip sync by the “group leader”~ song to be randomly selected by the teacher.

So go ahead world language educators out there, embrace music & music videos and think of creative ways to structure a lesson & activities around this unique piece of text sure to engage your students & make learning not only meaningful but engaging!

Comments, ideas & suggestions are always welcome below! Collaboration is key! 🙂

PS- Kristy Placido has done an excellent job in compiling music and suggesting ideas for her Spanish I and Spanish II classes, check out her blog for more information:



Reading Strategies for the WL Classroom

   Our World Language standards: so much of what we already do are now “official” Literacy standards across the country. ACTFL published a document about two years ago, aligning the CCSS with the communicative standards we have had in place for a number of years. Click here for this document. World Language teachers, we have been ahead of the game! 😀 

   We all know and understand that READING is a fundamental practice in acquiring vocabulary and target structures than traditional rote memorization/drill practice. With this in mind, how do we as World Language teachers also take on the role of Literacy coaches in our classrooms? How do we navigate through all of the millions of authentic text and select the ones we feel are most beneficial to our novice, intermediate or advanced learners? And finally, what types of strategies can we incorporate to make the process of reading meaningful and valuable for our learners?

    I will be presenting next week in my district’s literacy workshop (#PVRSummerLit) and will be sharing this presentation ( with my small group of attendees. This is information that World Language teachers should be familiar with and continue to practice each time they confront a text of their selection that will be valuable for their students.

    In my presentation, I plan to share on the criteria one needs to consider when selecting a text and of course, locating an accurate source. I created a collaborative document through Google Docs for educators to add to, if they would like, different sources available for either non-fiction or fiction text that they have found to be useful in the target language they teach. In exploring the different sources available, I plan to discuss how the website Pinterest has transformed how I search for materials for Spanish classes. And finally, I plan to have participants model & share different pre, during and after reading strategies as a whole group (many are listed within the presentation above). No matter which text is used, these strategies should be embedded throughout the lesson(s) involving the text. Text examples can be word clouds, comics, train schedules, tickets, info-graphics, memes, Tweets complied (#authres), simple articles, fictional stories, etc. There is so much out there- you just have to simplify and choose what is best suited for your learners. Also, you can transform a “high linguistic” level reading to novice level by using the embedded reading technique by Laurie Clarcq & Michelle Waley. Ultimately, I feel that “units” should be planned around literature and appropriate texts, as opposed to vocabulary lists and grammar points as many traditional textbooks structure their units.  

    I welcome any feedback or comments regarding “reading strategies” that you have used in the World Language classroom and your story on how reading has improved language acquisition in your classrooms. 

Spanish Time Capsule: A Letter to Myself

As the school year begins to wind down, an end of year project (not graded) was the “Time capsule letter”. It became a reflective “end of year” task that my students enjoyed working on, as they wrote to their “future” selves in 4 years. 

This idea was inspired by my (favorite) 4th grade teacher, Ms. Spangenberg. Students write a letter to themselves, in the target language, describing themselves, their families, their likes/dislikes, their friends, favorite things, favorite moments (really anything!) from their 8th grade year. Students first draft a letter in class, peer edit (if they would like to, since some students tend to be a bit more private with what they want to share) and later, type up/print their letter. Students are welcome to add in special pictures or “artifacts” from their 8th grade year. They bring in a self-address envelope with a forever stamp on it, ready to be mailed in the future. 

Now, the exciting part! As their 8th grade Spanish teacher, I promised my students that at the end of their final year in high school, I would mail their letters to them. I stored them in a large manila envelope in my old classroom. My fingers are crossed that not too many of my former students have moved but I will have to wait & see. The first group of letters that I collected will be going out in a few weeks and since I am no longer in my former school district, I will be sure to include my @srtanrodriguez Twitter name, in case they want to reach out to me to say Hola! I hope they will share with me what they plan to do after high school and all of the wonderful accomplishments throughout their time in high school. 

I hope that these letters will remind my former students of all of the fun they (and we) had in learning & studying Spanish. I also am hopeful that their Spanish has improved or they may be pleasantly surprised at how well they were writing in Spanish at the end of their 8th grade year. 



Let’s say “adiós” to conjugation charts

When I first began teaching, conjugation charts were part of what “I did” because I had learned Spanish grammar in a memorized way.  I believed it was vital for students to copy down charts and change verbs from here to there, forward and backwards, practically in their sleep.

My thoughts have drastically changed since I began my journey in the world of second language acquisition and foreign language teaching.

This antiquated style is still used in the majority of foreign language classrooms.  Teachers will argue…but they need it… it is important…how will they ever learn grammar without these types of activities?

Surprise! Did your parents sit you down when you were two years old and say, “Remember this and memorize: I am, you are, he is, she is, etc.” as a native speaker of English? I would say…certainly not! Now, when comparing first to second language acquisition, reality does set in. No, our students are not fully immersed on a daily basis in the second language. Boy, wouldn’t that be nice? Due to this, we are limited with our daily block of time, in terms how much “language” they are hearing and truly acquiring. However, making the most of this time is essential and critical to their language development.

Some Steps to Saying “Adios” to Conjugation Charts

1. Avoid the textbook “grammar” sections

Sure, they make sense. To you! You are a passionate teacher of this second language and you love grammar! Now, take a look at your student population, how many of them jump out of their seats to tell you the difference between direct and indirect object pronouns? Yes, I thought you might think that very low number. Majority rules, students have no idea which tense is which or why certain words come before others. They understand the language and use the language because of the context in which the grammar was presented to them. They understood patterns as children, identified similarities and rationalized when to use one tense or another. And, they had models of good language that they listen to and made sense of, little by little. Parents never scold children for saying “You is happy”, they simply say, “Yes, you are happy.” and consistently provide good input in a non-threatening, positive environment where mistakes are seen as moments of moving forward because this young mind is constructing language independently and finally able to articulate thoughts.

So, language teachers, relax with the perfection. Be a model of good language but don’t force feed the drills and charts into these young minds. In developing language classes, embrace those moments of student output because how wonderful for that student, they took a chance and were able to use the language they know, to express their thoughts. As students continue in the study of the language and the rigor increases naturally, students can discover patterns, understand the grammar in an authentic context and ultimately formulate as a class, why certain structures exist. Allow students to identify the grammatical components of the language and you as their teacher, be their guide to discovery.

If you are shaking your head in disbelief of this recommendation, I ask that you try this with at least one grammatical concept. Put that worksheet packet aside for one day. See how they do when grammar is presented as a backdrop, not as the main stage act. Allow grammar to be a tool in understanding the language, not the guide to your daily language instruction.

2Appropriate input: Use reading materials daily

Students should be reading in the target language every day, as much as they can. Now, this reading should be at a level of i+1, meaning there is a focus on high frequency structures or it has been adapted to fit their reading needs, with a few vocabulary words that may be new.

Let’s imagine a 1st grader attempting to read through the New York Times, that would be too cognitively demanding for that student with the array of new vocabulary, topics that may or may not be of interest and a considerable amount of reading skills needed to comprehend that level of writing.

Start small. Target high frequency words in the language. Select or create reading materials based upon those structures and allow students to add in their own vocabulary of importance to the overall reading material. Students want to read, as long as they are interested and are able to find success in comprehending what they are reading. Long lists of isolated vocabulary words are daunting. Which vocabulary words are most useful for the students to learn, given their frequency and use? Which vocabulary words will students actually use if placed in a situation where they must communicate with a native speaker of their language of study? Look at your current list of words from Chapter X, and cross out everything that seems silly to teach. Using readers, short stories, songs, and advertisements: anything that is linguistically appropriate to their level of proficiency…that is what you strive for.

Team up with your colleagues {who are willing} and begin to cross out the unnecessary fluff that is added in. Agree on those common structures and make the language meaningful for your students by emphasizing the structures and phrases that are most useful. If proficiency is your end goal, build in as much reading as possible into your current curriculum and allow student interest to drive vocabulary instruction.

Good readers = Good speakers & writers! 🙂

3. Scripted or memorized dialogues…prove?

It was always a little funny for me when students asked if they could write down and use their “lines” for an interpersonal scenario. My response was, “Do you write down what you plan to say to each other in English?” They would shake their heads and go back to their partner, as they would continue  to practice discussing a variety of topics with one another.

I evolved my “interpersonal” communicative activities from in front of the whole class {which is nerve wrecking!}, to a “round robin” approach or “standing line/movement” approach. We want to hear spontaneous language in use, when appropriate. Students would either work in partners, sitting in a circle formation (inside/outside) or stand in a line, that would move to the right/left/two people/three people. During each movement, I would display/announce either a topic or question to the group. Students would randomly speak with their peers in this informal, non-scripted setting. I would listen to their comments to one another and not provide grades, but overall feedback to the group. I would pose questions to the students about the grammar they had used or the vocabulary they choose. As a class, they would reaffirm their grammatical knowledge by saying they had to emphasize the “o” because it is in the past tense or use “Ellos” instead of Maria y Juan multiple times in their speaking. Students would continue to formulate their rationale behind the grammar in the language and I would facilitate and fill in the gaps when needed. A “feedback” activity such as this, took no more than 5 minutes in my class. Quick, simple and to the point! As second language learners, they can all have gentle reminders about grammatical patterns and structures, it was not necessary to be explicitly explained and provide instruction on for 45 minutes.

If a teacher does plan to have students “script” a dialogue, let’s step out of our comfort zones and not waste valuable in class time on individual or paired presentations. Have students create a video, presentation or podcast. They can they share with the group {using social media such as Edmodo makes it simple for the whole class to view} and select which students they would like to listen to, view their presentation and possibly provide feedback. This then becomes a presentational/interpretive task for students. The teacher can also assign specific tasks while listening or things to “look out for”.

Ideally, if the classroom teacher can provide an informal setting for non-native students to speak with native students- this is where magic happens! Students learn best and use all/any means necessary to get their message across. Native speakers act as fantastic language models for the non-native students and ultimately, students will be proud of their resilience in articulating their message as best they can. I have found that teaming older students up with younger students also provides a nice dynamic.


I hope that saying “adios” to conjugation charts doesn’t seem like too radical of an approach. World language teachers have the daily opportunity to create meaningful, engaging lessons for their students, tailored to meet their interests & needs. What a unique ability- compared to the other disciplines! So, go ahead, make your math teachers jealous and rock the boat a bit, as you begin to ditch those conjugation charts and look forward to warmer waters, in this sea of comprehensible input.




“La Mano”…a kinesthetic, musical & visual way to understand verb endings

“La Mano”

I’ve been using the “mano” for a number of years with my students, to help when it comes to their speaking and writing in terms of remembering which ending goes with which person or group of persons. I’m not quite sure if I came up with this strategy all on my own or if I had some help but either way, I love using it as a useful tool with students studying Spanish.

Students trace their own hand in their notebooks and label each finger accordingly. The thumb is considered “Yo” and they write “Yo” on the inside and “o” on the tip of the outside of the thumb. They signal to themselves with their own thumb and say “Yo, o”. The pointer finger becomes “Tú” with “as, es” and although it is not nice to point, they point to the person sitting next to them and as I like to say “stare into their eyeballs” and say, “Tú, as, es”. Next, as if they are counting starting with their thumb, they have three fingers in the air and point up to signify “Usted” by pointing towards me (their teacher), and finding a classmate in the room, point out  “él” and “ella”. With these movements, they state, “Usted, él, ella, a, e”. Now, the longest of all, we. The students have four fingers (ring finger) displayed and take their hands, so that they circle it around their head to say “Nosotros, nosotras, amos, emos, imos”. Some students like to circle around their head multiple times, no harm in that! Finally, all five fingers are out and the entire mano is now displayed, because we have arrived to our last endings, on the pinky. Students, using their entire hand, point up to signify a group of individuals who are older than they are to state “Ustedes” and then towards their classmates, “ellos” and a group of female classmates, “ellas”.  The tricky part is coordinating the hand movements with the statements. Once they get the hang of this slowly, you can then speed it up into a chant or rap, to make it more interesting and fun to do.

Yo, o

Tú, as, es

Usted, él, ella, a, e

Nosotros, nosotras, amos, emos, imos

Ustedes, ellos, ellas, an, en

Students practice “la mano” at the beginning of the school year and learn what each of the subject pronouns mean. When it comes to memorization, we turn “la mano” into a chant or rhyme to make it easier to recall. We practice “la mano” in various contexts, one on one, in partners, small groups and as a whole class. Either way, after repetition and practice, it does stick! I also allow students to quickly create “la mano” at the top of their writing assignments,  speaking prompts, free writes or quizzes/tests as an additional reference tool. This is especially helpful for students who struggle with the endings and need a visual reminder.

The mano can be used for ALL different types of endings, based on the -AR, -ER and -IR verbs and tenses of emphasis in your level of Spanish. Students in level one enjoyed the present tense and preterit tense “mano”- so we used our right & left hands.

Hopefully this trick will allow for smoother speaking and writing on behalf of your novice, intermediate or advanced learners of Spanish! ¡Suerte! 🙂

Power Point (ppt):  La Mano

2014: The year of “Why Not?”

2014 has begun and New Years Resolutions are all around us! However, have you taken a few minutes to reflect on your “educational” resolution? For this year, I plan to embrace the philosophy of “Why not?” and hope you will as well. Ultimately, how do you know if that strategy, technique or idea will work…if you don’t at least take the time to plan & try?

So, I say pick one new thing…one new idea…something you’ve heard about in the educational realm and wondered. Take a few minutes to open yourself up to trying out these unchartered waters. And when you begin to doubt your ambitious 2014 nature, stop and say, “Why not?”

Here are some suggestions: 

(1) Involve yourself in a social media website with other educators. Whether it be Edmodo, LinkedIn, Thinkfinity, Twitter, Schoology, Pinterest, etc….take a few minutes to explore at least one. Just by reading what other educators are posting and discussing online, you may feel inspired to pick up your “new thing” through the help of others.

(2) Go watch a colleague you’ve worked with and have always wanted to watch. Whether it be in your subject area or a different discipline, schedule the time with the help of your building administration, to observe your colleague for at least one class period. While visiting, take notes, ask yourself reflective questions about the strategies they use and whether or not you can implement what you see into your own practice.

(3) If your “one new idea” is costly, then it looks like grant writing is the way to go. Seek out a local or national organizations/business that supports educational institutions. Writing a grant is similar to filling out an application- you provide as much criteria as possible about what you would like to do and the purpose behind the financial necessity in your request. It is simple! The hard part is finding the right organization that will support your idea. This website is a good place to start:

(4) Pick up a copy of Dave Burgess’s Teach like a Pirate. I guarantee you will be inspired.

(5) Sign up for a Professional Development experience that is new for you! There are always plenty of ways for world language educators to learn- whether it be online or in person-you just have to find the best one for you based on your schedule. This year, I was fortunate enough to attend ACTFL and I was amazed by the amount of passionate educators I met and connected with, not to mention all the wonderful sessions I attended! As a first-time attendee, ACTFL was quite rewarding.


So, I ask….will 2014 also be your year of Why not?

Go for it! 🙂