Too many materials!

I started teaching in 2010. The 2010s are a great time to be a language teacher. We’ve got youtube, google drive/classroom, twitter, LCD projectors, smartboards, and more leveled readers and stories than you can shake a stick at. And because there are so many options to choose from, it can be extremely overwhelming! It used to be that language teachers had to look through a handful of textbooks and decide which one they preferred, they ordered it, and then they taught it. But now there’s so many options, how do you even know where to start? I mean, curating videos from youtube and making lessons from them could be a full-time job. The upside and downside of the availability of language materials is that literally anything could be used for a lesson, as long as you can make it comprehensible for your students.

With that in mind, many new teachers are looking to graduate and compile ideas for their future classrooms. Veteran teachers are looking forward to another fresh start in the fall. However, none of us have time to comb all the websites for all the potentially useful ideas for all levels and all topics. So in this post, I’m going to share some of my favorite teaching materials to help narrow down the field for both newcomers and veterans. Unfortunately, these materials tend to focus on Spanish language so I hope that all the other language bloggers out there find someone who will do the same for them! I also have easy access to technology in my room, though I know many schools still do not, so your mileage may vary.

Video resources

  • VideoEle – a youtube series designed for Spanish learners. I like it because it designates topics by difficulty level (using the European A/B/C) and has subtitles. The creator has also started going through and remastering some videos with Latin American Spanish as well as the original Spain Spanish, so that’s cool.
  • Señor Wooly – Señor Wooly recently recreated his site from the ground up and it is awesome. The PRO version, though mildly expensive, has been totally worth it in my opinion. Doing one video can easily take a class period or two, and if you do a large number of the included stories, nuggets, and other activities, you could easily stretch one video into a week’s worth of comprehensible input with very little work on your part. Señor Wooly does all the work for you! And, because music is fun, the students don’t even realize they’re learning.
  • Señor Jordan – Even though I have backed off heavily from grammar explanations, there still comes a time when I need to explain a grammatical point to clean up my students’ speech or writing. Señor Jordan has a number of grammar videos with great examples of the concept.

Audio resources

  • Audio-lingua – Audio-lingua is a great resource for all teachers, but especially if you’re a teacher who is full-on comprehensible input only, with no particular thematic units. I love that you can search by length, speaker region, difficulty, or any variety of other parameters. It’s just people talkin about stuff.
  • Spanish Obsessed Podcast – Relatedly, the Spanish Obsessed podcast is also people talkin about stuff. They do a nice job of splitting their podcasts into different levels. I’ve only used a few samples from the intermediate section. As a non-native speaker teacher, I also like that Rob is a non-native speaker conversing with Liz, a native speaker. It helps students distinguish from different accents and emphasizes that you can have an accent and still be perfectly comprehensible.
  • University of Texas listening exercises – For listening exercises, this website is my bread and butter. You can choose to have English, Spanish, or no subtitles available when viewing. I personally like to set it to no subtitles while listening, then going over the full clip together with the Spanish available. Oh, and they’re organized by difficulty level, topic, and have a variety of speakers from different countries to practice those different dialects!

Interpersonal practice

  • Let’s Chat by Patti Lozano – I ordered this book through Teacher’s Discovery. It is chock full of games and other speaking types of activities, written in English with examples in Spanish, French, and sometimes German (but of course, you can always adapt if you teach something else!) One trick is to make sure if the activity itself doesn’t lend to comprehensible input from the students, use their responses and turn it into comprehensible input yourself!
  • Cuéntame Cards – These are another valuable resource. They are the kinds of questions I might ask a student, only… I didn’t have to think of them. I just have one set that I pull cards from to make the set appropriate for whatever level of students. The guide that comes with the card has multiple ways to use the cards. You could also make your own for free, but I’m lazy.
  • Hablemos: 25 Guided Dialogues – I didn’t use this resource as much this year as I would’ve liked, but the premise is good. It’s actually rather similar to the conversational portion of the AP exam. Rather than having students translate or memorize a conversation, these guided dialogues tell students what to say in general (‘greet your friend’ or ‘make plans for the weekend’), and the students have to do the work. It provides a sample conversation for students to check their work against, and also includes some things like crosswords or word searches that might be appropriate for fast finisher activities.

As usual, I have way more resources to share but I’ll save them for a later post. Happy shopping!

The far-reaching effects of depression

Hello, dear readers! Things are slowing down here at school but picking up in my personal life. As we enter the last month of the school year, I have some time to reflect on how things went this year and use those reflections to guide my smattering of lesson plans. However, when I’m trying to plan, I find that I have an elephant in the room. Well, more of a donkey, really. A grumpy, mopey donkey named Eeyore.

Without going into too many specifics, I am someone who has suffered from various levels of depression and anxiety throughout my life. Over the years, I’ve come up with various strategies to help me cope. But this past fall, my strategies were no longer working. I was a frazzled, grouchy mess. I cried nearly every day over things that I knew were absolutely ridiculous – and a whole bunch of other things that weren’t ridiculous, but was an overreaction to the situation. And it also affected my teaching. Yeah, I was that teacher. The one who is on auto-pilot, who was in survival mode, putting together very mediocre lessons just to get through the day. I don’t feel any guilt – it’s what I needed to do to get through.

In December, I finally went to the doctor and got back on track. I’m feeling like my old self again – better, really – but now that I can look back and peer into the dark hole that was the fall semester… I am finding myself in a bit of trouble. I have three related problems: number one, there were some units that really should’ve been overhauled or found themselves in the chuck it bucket. (I also still feel like I try to teach too much vocabulary at once.) Number two, I did a horrendous job of getting my repetitions in, so my students have a huge gap in their vocabularies. Number three, I was all over the place in terms of what I asked students to do rather than using best practices so the stuff they did pick up is not quite the quality I would like.

Let’s not even talk about AP Spanish. AP Spanish’s class structure is getting a complete renovation next year. They did everything I asked;  the lack of awesome is all on me.

So I guess the question is… uh, now what? I can do a little damage control in the remaining days, but that doesn’t make up for weeks of survival teaching. It’s already frustrating enough to limit vocabulary. I just want my students to know all the Spanishes already! So now I have to control it even more until I can somehow squeeze our lost words back into the curriculum. I have this terrible habit where it is very input/story based in first semester and not so much the second. Guess when they make the most gains in proficiency. I’ve got myself trapped in a double-whammy of having better plans in the fall, though I taught them in a not-so-awesome manner, and having better teaching in the spring with more mediocre planning.

I’m not going to let it get me down. These ups and downs are part of the normal teaching flow. I’ll figure it out next year. It’s just something for me to think about.

 

 

Close reading retell

In my last post, I talked about doing close readings with my Spanish 2s. I decided to combine the idea of a close reading and a retell all into one activity. The students read a story about a girl, Barbara, who was really clumsy and had a lot of accidents. (This was for the injury unit.) After reading the story and doing various comprehension activities, I asked the students to work in pairs. Borrowing a close reading technique, I asked them to pick out the 10 most important sentences of the story – no more, no less – and their story still had to make sense with those 10 sentences. In other words, I tricked them into summarizing (without calling it summarizing, which elicits moans and groans). Then, I asked them to illustrate each of their Spanish sentences from the story with a picture. This is how I was able to check for comprehension (again). This was an easy plan with no preparation required on my part, but I got some really great results. Here are just a few of the interesting – if a bit gruesome – retells I received.

photoretell1

A good example of what I asked students to do.

photoretell2photoretell3

This group amused me by pasting their ‘Barbara’ face into every one of their photos.