I am finally learning to have fun on the virtual playground. It is a mix of “Ya está” and, well, just making that good old-fashioned lemonade. Although there is no comparison (similar to real ice-cream, versus the soy variety), I am learning to leverage the right tools to get students talking, laughing, and having temporary amnesia of the fact that yes, we are living through one of the worst pandemics of our time!
Novice-low talking heads
Everyday I try to think of a way that I can get students engaged in class with limited language abilities, and this week I found a few additional tools in my toolbox.
Assigning roles to students in class
First of all, I cannot keep track of my role as a teacher, much less 30 kids I don’t really know well. However, giving them tasks in class has transferred some student responsibility (upcoming post about that!). Here are three roles I delegated students in the class and several activities that enrich out time online.
Greeter: This person greets the class. Once I turn it over to them, everyone has to find two people to greet on the screen. They turn to the left and right and greet those people. Now, we are learning each other’s names!
Chat Moderator: This student moderates the chat, let’s me know if someone has a question and if they can see my screen (or if I’m muted). They also summarize my directions for activities (1-2 sentences). The moderator also calls on students and when they respond, they say “Gracias” and “Excelente.”
Teacher in The Trenches Trick: Assign this role to the person who is always lost (because they are not paying attention). This will give them an extra incentive to pay attention.
Timekeeper: The time keeper tells us how much time we have. I also use a timer, but I like hearing a voice other than mine! “Clase, tenemos 10 minutos.”
Later, I will add a weather person, but now these three will suffice.
Rejoinders Spice Up Everything!
On Friday, we talked about weekend activities. Students had to share with the class what were up to his upcoming weekend (Spanish 1). I provided them an example of what I was going to do with pictures and input. However, they were allowed to respond in English, with a twist! Other students had to comment on their posts (Use the Google Classroom Question Feature and tic “students can respond to each other’s post”) and use one of three rejoinders:
It was really gratifying to see the interaction and relatability! This is really building community (we even got to sing happy bday in Spanish on one of the students). They are also learning how to react in Spanish for when more vocabulary starts rolling in!
Accessible Interactive Questions
These interactive questions brought to us by a talented Brazilian artist, have been a great conversation starters, even if convo skills are lacking. I used the first one with both levels 1 & 4, and it was nice seeing the self-discovery as student responded. However, with my level 1 students who have even less vocabulary the word bank, it was really cool to see them interact with the question. I posed the question and had them respond in the chat (rather than on Peardeck). This gave me a CI Boost. I then started restating what each person said, ending with a rejoinder.
Example: Shawn es tipo número dos. ¡Qué interesante!
I really love the chat feature on the virtual platforms because it can be a hotbed of input! I simple choose someone and then ask questions. This extends that interactive session. Below are some examples:
¿Cuál tipo es Melinda? ¿Qué tal, Joshua? ¿Y Jamal? The list can go on! Below is an example from my slide deck. You’ll notice that I frontload the vocabulary needed for this activity. Drip, drip!
Getting In The Mix! Noticing activities with the verb gustar
To extend the challenge and fun, I asked them to guess which one type of person I was. Again, I place the correct way to address me in the chat. They copied and pasted their responses. It was very revealing! I am type 2, in case you were wondering!
Drip Grammar With The Verb Gustar
So, I have been on this grammar drip (sounds medical, right?) with my students this year. I just drop in some structures that we have on the menu for later in the year. In Spanish 1 it has been with the verb gustar and the verb form soy. In Spanish IV, it has been with hypotheticals using the past subjunctive and the conditional tense. Fun times!
I started with the question: What type of traveler are you? ¿Qué tipo de viajero eres?
Balancing equity: I also tempered this question with, if you could travel, for students who might not have had the opportunity to travel.
Phase 1: Students choose their traveler type. I had them write it in the chat. I love to repeat some of the choices, this way they hear gustar and make a slight note that it’s different when I am talking about someone else.
Phase 2: I invite students to unmute and share. For this prompt, some students shared they were both types of travelers.
Phase 3: I chimed in and used students as examples. “A Shawna le gusta la naturaleza.” “A Raymond le gusta la ciudad.”
This simple activity is not only a mood -booster, I mean, who doesn’t like animals, but it also gave me a gateway to introduce more words to fit the context.
Part 2 of the Gustar activity
Phase 1: Look at the pictures and write in the chat the sentence that best describe your interest. This way they are getting practice with the structure.
Phase 2: Unmute and share your preference- same as before. For 90-minute classes, every little bit counts.
Phase 3: Follow-up questions. I tried this for the first time virtually without having my Word Walls and gadgets and it went pretty well.
Teacher: ¿Tienes un gato o perro en casa?
Student: Sí o no (you can use the nod feature or thumbs up in Zoom).
Teacher: Ay, ¿tienes una mascota?
Teacher: ¿Cuál tienes un perro o un gato?
¿Cómo se llama? Me llamo Sra. Quintero. Mi gato se llama Zoe. ¿Cómo se llama tu perro?
Student: Se llama Shadow
Teacher: ¿Shadow es un buen perro o es travieso? (I put horns on my head)?
Student: Buen perro (they are just parroting)
We spent about 20 minutes with those warm-ups!
I have another activity that emerged: The talking calendar (freebie). The objective was to get students to talk about what they do during the week, in order to practice days of the week. But how could they with such limited language? Below are the goals of the activity:
- Review the days of the week – (we meet the same two days of the week so they had Martes and Viernes on lock)
- Learn the colors (this was optional. They could color code their calendars)
- Learn some new vocabulary words
Click here for the free calendar activity. What students had to do is summarized below:
- Fill in the missing days of the week
- Color code the days using primary colors (optional)
- Summarize list two activities for each day. I had a pictionary bank below so students could pull from there. They could also look words up. I urged them to summarize the activity so they wouldn’t have to rely on Google Translate. For example, if students hang out with friends, they can write: amigos. The purpose of this last inquiry-based activity was to give them some control over their learning, but also not overload them or make them feel like they had to use Google Translate.
Once we finished, I gave them some vocabulary for presenting.
They talked about one day of their week, and the students had to write down their name (we are saying our name and pronouns with every activity the first few months), the day of the week (lots of practice and variety) and their activity.
I had them spell the activity as best they could: I’m not looking for perfection.
The speaker also gives the English equivalent as well. I volunteered to restate the word so they could see and listen how to say it. It was a pretty fun class and everyone paid attention!
I hope these activities were helpful!
Who am I?
I am currently a Spanish Teacher in Chicago, IL. I have 16 years of cumulative experience as an International Baccalaureate middle school teacher, high school teacher, and adjunct instructor. I hold a Master’s in Latin American Literature and Cultures coupled with a Master’s in Educational Leadership. These dual degrees have afforded me a vantage point from both ends of the educational spectrum: instruction and evaluation. I have been sharing my unique perspective on pedagogy and language acquisition for over ten years at national, regional and state conferences. I am also an accomplished author! I have authored several compelling comprehensible novels that allow students to solidify their language skills while experiencing a wide range of different cultures. Check out my resources below. Thanks for stopping by!
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