Remote Learning World Language

Virtual Reality Survivor’s Guide To Teaching Remote!

Ready to Work!

Last week was my first week of school and I thought it was going to end up much like the picture below.

I had heard the stories, seen the posts, read the vents along with the parade of retirement announcements. To quote Gloria Gaynor, at first I was afraid, I was petrified to put it mildly. This year, it was obvious that could not rely solely on my bubbly personality to make the class fun and dynamic; so I had to march to the drawing board…

Who remembers these from drafting class?

A week before school (we found out we were going to be remote: surprise! ), I spent every waking hour planning, tweaking, creating , modifying resources, and going on shopping sprees on TPT! I spent time thinking and strategizing, which is how I landed on the plan below. It is still a work in progress, but my goal is to provide a high quality curriculum, without burning myself down to a crisp.  

Hacking The Organizational Monster

Last spring, when we went remote, I felt like I was always looking for something. I had a binder with all the schedules and information. And although it was organized, it still added additional steps, which made it woefully frustrating. However, this year, I stood in the center of my office and got to work! I started dismounting the pictures over my desk (except Frida). I decided to redesign that space and make it purposeful and functional. It’s slowly becoming my dashboard, and every day I am spending less time on hair-pulling scavenger hunts, and more time on crafting creative lesson plans, and adjusting my curriculum. I’ve ordered a cork board from Amazon, and have started pinning critical communication bulletins in the interior of my desk. 

Yes, I framed a book cover!

I have pinned: 

  • The school calendar and schedules: timetables help with planning school and endeavors. Since we have an A/B day schedule, I can more readily schedule doctor appts, exercise time, writing, and resource- creation for my TPT store!
    • The calendars also prove useful when we have virtual IEP meetings as all the information right in front of me. 
  • Speaking of IEPs, I perused through all of mine, made a table with the students’ name, accommodations/modifications and WL considerations. Again, I don’t have to hunt down the document while lesson planning 
  • Front and center is a color-coded copy of Bloom’s Taxonomy for writing lesson objectives. This resource (linked below) is a game changer! As I planned my lessons last week, I was able to reframe activities, making them more intellectually gratifying. It also made me rethink the purpose of some activities.
  • Important announcements (are also pinned)
  • Rubrics for quick grading ( I have these in folders now)
  • The cork board will serve as my dashboard for daily reminders and planning needs. I will also post some of my favorite affirmations on there! I talk about these of these tricks in the videos below.
  • I also bought a mesh bin to organize my activities. I print out all activities so I can have them handy when teaching. This way, everything has a place. 

Organizing my virtual class 

This year the district decided to revert back to 90-minute classes on the virtual platform versus 45 minute classes last year in the Spring. That can seem like a lot of time online. However, I could not ignore the great opportunity to delve deeper into content, offer more comprehensible input and of course, more support. 

Hence, I decided to create a predictable routine every day around five segments in class. The sections are below as well as the tasks to be accomplished during each time.

Each segment last anywhere from 15-20 minutes.  I use “” templates for my lessons.

¿Qué tal? – SEL Mood Meter activities. 

¿Cómo estás? – students can respond to a Peardeck poll, or write in the chat room. I also have the nod extension with Google Meets, so they can respond with that as well. Differentiation is well into effect.

Furthermore, I have a few engaging pictures that I have gotten from colleagues and people on Facebook. For example, one idea was to show a picture of a Cat and a Dog (Juxtaposed) and ask students which picture made them more happy. It’s an instante mood changer. The inspiration for this ideas came from Grey’s Anatomy! Dr. Shepherd was performing some type of brain stimulation activity on Dr. Torres. on Grey’s Anatomy. That teacher brain never turns off!

Repaso – Review of the previous lesson 

Lección – Mini- lesson

Aplicación – independent time to work 

Recapitulación – discuss the next day’s menu 

Having a Variety of Class Structures 

*Student stay within these groups for the duration of the unit 

Additionally, I have developed four core participation structures for class: Mini-class, Small group, Split Class & Dyads. Each one serve a different purpose.

  1. Mini-class – groups of 10. We did this the second day, and it was amazing. I assign students to one of three groups. While they are meeting the other students are completing a task and taking their 10 minute break. Adding the break made it easier to manage so when they are not in a group, they can just remember one assignment to do. We have short discussion in this group. This could be a response to a writing prompt and/or a check-in.

2. Small group structure– this comprises 4-5 students. I plan to use this structure for deeper conversations, conversation circles, book discussions and feedback on speaking tasks prior to summative assessments.

3. Dyads– I will use this structure to provide feedback to students on writing activities.

4. Split Class– this structure will be used for games (we will play as a whole class as well). It will be used to teach concepts as well. This will allow students to feel safe in asking questions and requesting help from their peers.

Sanity-Saving Hacks  

  • I am endeavoring to use no more than 2 tech platforms a day. Ideally, I’d want to use one. 
    • Google Classroom and Pear Deck
    • Google Classroom & Socrative  

Keep it simple!

The Ultimate Hack: Keeping a positive attitude 

It is so easy to get overwhelmed and start verbally abusing ourselves. Don’t do it! If you are still teaching during a pandemic, regardless of having your stuff together, you’ve already earned your stars. This year is like no other and we really have to believe this. It’s hard, I know. There are teachers who were born for this. I wasn’t and I am just amassing some of my hacks making it work for me. Very early in the process, I decided to take a very minimalist intentionalist approach, and it has work for me. 

We are wired to focus on the negative, even in the midst of overwhelming positive odds; this is call the Negative confirmation bias. I learned about this from the book “The Originals” by Adam Grant. We get that one email from an irate parent (who is probably going through their own mess), and we are ready to give up on ourselves. Don’t do it! We must remember that teaching is hard, and teaching in a pandemic is like swimming upstream, or maybe going into battle without the proper armor!

If you prefer to listen to some of these hacks, check out my stories below!

Negative confirmation bias 

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!

Novels and Resources by A.C. Quintero

A.C. Quintero Literary Partners!

Fluency Matters

Teacher’s Discovery

Command Performance Language Institute

Teaching Spanish Made Easy (TPT) Catalog

Social Media Digital Footprint!

Instagram a.c.quintero

Twitter @klaseklastellano

Facebook a.c. quintero

IG story

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Make your space work for you!

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Identity,, Remote Learning World Language, Spanish class

Fridalicious: Spanish Mini-unit On The Art and Life of Frida Kahlo

(Jump to the bottom of the page to see the second installment)

I will use this space to share my approach to our Frida unit during remote learning. I will update this blog with activities every week until the unit has concluded. To get these updates, you can follow this blog, or follow me on social media!

Instagram: a.c.quintero

Twitter: Klasekastellano

Facebook: A.C. Quintero/ Teaching Spanish Made Easy

Since teaching remotely, I have had to really hone my creative skills much like the rest of you. Finding ways to engage students, making learning meaningful, not necessarily fun, but interesting has been my quest for these last few weeks; and I might have figured some valuable lessons with this unit. My colleagues and I pulled teamed up to make this unit happen, and it has been nothing short of amazing. We curated, created and collaborated fiercely in order to make learning about Frida fortuitous and enduring. I will be sharing some of the activities related to this project.

In terms of my colleagues work on this project, I will only share the public websites and domains used, not the actually activities that they have developed. However, I am free to share my contributions to the unit and my take on some of the work we mastered, so please enjoy!

¡Hola, Guapa!

One of my favorite activities to do is to prime students for new concepts. This involves accessing and collectively building prior and/or active knowledge together; this in turns eases the cognitive burden and frees up space to accommodate those new nuggets of knowledge. To prime students for our remote learning Frida unit, first, I gauged their opinions on the world of art. Students were tasked to think about the nature of art including but not excluding the following prompts: What is art? Can all forms of expression be categorized as art? Is graffiti art? You can download this free starter activity here.

Las citas fridianas

The second wave of engagement was actually reading quotes from Frida’s life (which is also included in this free resource). Included in the resource above are famous quotes spoken by Frida during her lifetime. We analyzed, discussed, and reflected about her about her philosophy of life. They also commented on which quote resonated with them. Extension activity?

Virtual Tour of La Casa Azul

My stellar colleague unearthed this free virtual tour of La Casa Azul. It was the perfect prelude to our unit. The 3D tour allows us to peer in every corner of the Frida museum. Now, students have an opportunity to see how this vivacious, colorful, and pioneering artist lived. We gave students 20 minutes to explore the house on their own and write & record their impressions in Spanish. Click here to for the tour!

El arte sin límites

Arte sin límites, is a short text that I wrote about Frida years ago, and never had the will to finish it. However, when we could not use the Frida books for remote learning, I quickly dug it up, added some research from from the plethora of my Frida collection, sent it my friend and collaborator in Spain, and viola! We used it in my classroom. The goal of this text is to give students a fuller view of Frida, her life and artwork. The text is about 4 pages, and highlights the basics of her life and artwork. This paid resource is the extension of the free resource above and includes with comprehension questions and an art analysis activity. I supplemented the reading with two clips of Frida’s life from Youtube. I wanted to give students an aerial view of her accident and how crippling it was to her person, but at the same time how this awful event transformed her into one of the most pioneering artists of her time incapable of being pigeon-hold and steadying blazing new trails paved with authenticity and cultural homage.

These resources, clips, and quotes prepared us for the next step in the journey, sponsored by Vogue, the Las apariencias engañan Exhibit. Another great find from my colleague! I will discuss how I used this in my class and a mini-project that I am conjuring up to rematarlo!

Las apariencias engañan: Los vestidos de Frida is our next stop on the Fridalicous tour.

This striking exhibit whose themes are Disability and ethnicity invites viewers into to contemplate the intricate wardrobe of Frida Kahlo. She was an artistic enigma in and of herself. Some of the enduring lessons for my students were the semiotic meanings imbued in their clothing and how her wardrobe was carefully suited to mask her disability.  Below the recap, you can find some of the activities that I did in class. 

Start Class With A Bang!

The Wounded Table

The week prior (see the information above this post), we started talking about Frida, using her quotes, reading about her life, and this week it was all about delving more deeply into her paintings, and using authentic resources, like the Las apariencias engañan Exhibit, to showcase her in her fullest glory. But, before we landed in the virtual wardrobe museum we did a little recon on our fav artist.

I used this painting of  “The Wounded Table”as a bell-ringer. I had students observe the painting and list all the elements they observed. I gave them a few minutes to think about it and maybe even look up word they had forgotten how to say.  Initiated this task with this question: ¿Cuáles son los elementos que te llaman la atención en esta pintura? Students used the starter phrase, “Yo veo” and continued to list off those bold features that stood out. Asking then them to only list what they observed, relieved the pressure of having to conjure up answers for this dynamic and multi-thematic piece. I gave them an access pass, invite them in, and to require little in the beginning and then build up.   Below is a compilation of some of the elements they noticed right away: 

  1. Frida está en el centro
  2. Hay niños
  3. Sus manos no son sus manos
  4. Hay un esqueleto
  5. Vemos que hay partes de la naturaleza
  6. La pintura está un poco oscura/ no brillante
  7. Hay sangre
  8. El telón corrido
  9. Hay un venado 

Naturally, since we read this article about Frida and previously analyzed her paintings, many students started to see a pattern emerge. I then asked then to make sense of those elements, what could they possible mean. I started first with Frida being in the middle and part of the artistic universe she so vividly paints. I told them that they could use what they knew about her to attempt to make connections. 

After hearing them, I asked them probing questions. For example, when on student said “hay niños” I asked, what could this mean? Another student chimed in saying that Frida couldn’t have niños, so maybe those are the kids she wanted to have. Another student also shared that she used to read to the kids in the neighborhood, so maybe it could be those kids. I then offered that the children could also be a dream that was never fulfilled as they are not central to the painting as other elements such as the skeleton. This gave them a boost, and they started feeling more comfortable (I took about 20 minutes before class to look at the painting myself and make notes).

Then,  I went through their responses one by one adding to the symbolic meaning they’d mention. We had a discussion in which they linked the previous events they had learned about with her life. The interpretation is below (excuse any errors as my Spanish is not perfect). 

  1. Frida está en el centro del cuadro. Ella es el enfoque central. Es un autoretrato con los elementos oníricos (they learned this word!) que siempre son presentes en su vida. Ella les da visibilidad.
  2. Los niños pueden significar la inocencia o falta de ella. También, por la mirada que tienen, pueden representar la curiosidad. Están al lado de la mesa, lo cual sugiere una distancia de Frida y lejos de las cosas que amenazan su vida.  De pronto, están a salvo de la muerte que la rodea. 
  3. El venado representa la vulnerabilidad. Ya hemos visto el venado como motivo en otra pintura.  
  4. El esqueleto representa la muerte y cómo siempre se le acecha. Ella vive con la muerte y no la teme. La acepta como parte de su mundo. Baila con ella. Partes de su cuerpo se funden con otras entidades. Esta parte se le atribuye a que su propio cuerpo tiene fusiones metales. 
  5. La naturaleza el verdor del campo, pero está consumido por el panorama gris. Prefiere las nubes y no hay sol. 
  6. La sangre representa la vida. 
  7. El telón corrido de modo que se puede ver todo, es sinónimo cómo nuestras vidas pueden ser producto del consumo público (on display). 

There are so many more rich elements that can be extrapolated, but this activity’s purpose was to empower students in thinking about how they could, based on their present knowledge, understand a little bit about Frida. 

Video of Frida 

This video served as a good introduction to the exhibit referred to at the bottom.  I had students watch and share one thing that they learned. They could share in Spanish or in English.

The exhibit, as one could imagine, is very extensive. We had students look at the first six pictures, read and then respond to questions.

We had students read about 5-6 of the slides from the exhibit and respond to the questions below.

  1. How did Frida’s choice of clothing suit her physical condition? 
  2. How did Frida use her clothing to make a statement? What was the declaration that those clothes articulated? 
  3. Discuss the diversity of her wardrobe.  
  4. How is her wardrobe different from yours? 

Extension activity

Have students take a picture of their wardrobe, or 3- 4 outfits and accessories and discuss their preferences, and why they choose to dress a certain way. 

Check out the website here!

Next week, I will share out Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe Comparison activity.

Remote Learning World Language

Remote Learning Crisis-Response Toolbox: Teachers Are The True Heroes in This Story!

Check out this webinar on Youtube! More examples! 

Before we get started, please pat yourself on the back because you are an awesome educator who curated resources, transformed your house into a learning center for your kids and someone’s in a matter of days.

With regards to remote learning, I have realized that we are all operating on 60% battery life. We are drained from the stresses that the stay-at-home order has placed on our families, routines, and incomes. I set out from the beginning to approach my new found reality in the simplest terms possible, and below I have listed some crisis-response curricular shifts that have been working for me (I also recorded a webinar earlier this week with Teacher’s Discovery on this very topic, check it out): 

  1. Mental Jedi trick: Adjust the dial on your expectations! The lower they are, the less frustrated you will be when things don’t line up! On my first day engaging students, I expected everything to go wrong from students not knowing how to mute to audio, to being flooded with extraneous sounds, etc. I pictured myself as one of the trauma doctors on Grey’s anatomy, trying to crike a patient and while simultaneously performing chest compressions (and blood squirting all everywhere. Sorry for the vivid imagery here). Establishing this mental disposition beforehand, or even giving in a bit to my “Negative bias” made me happier in the end. The first week, I was able to celebrate the little victories, which made me more pleasant to deal with. 
  1. Stretch between breaks. Sitting for too long makes you even more tense. If possible, take a one minute stretch break. This helps me to relieve the pressure, inject a change of pace ( below we’ll talk about planning in such a way that you’re able to do this). In fact, I am so good at stretching my back now that I might not go back to my chiropractor once the stay-at-home order is lifted.  

Managing The Workload

3. Break assignments down into manageable chunks. Don’t try to go all out or make this tantamount to your “in-class experience; it’s not and the quicker you realize this (managing expectations), the better off you will be.

I assign one big assignment every three days, and students complete only a portion (of the assignment) at a time (one a day).  For example, my level 1 students will be reading a story about their ideal school. Their big assignment is the read an article excerpt from “Qué Tal: Una clase diferente.” Being mindful of their schedules and maybe even new found responsibilities, I endeavor to lighten the load just enough to keep them engaged, afloat, and racking up quick-wins as well. I give only a third of assignments or activities that I would give under normal circumstances.  Below is what my schedule looks like:  

A :Day 1 students are doing pre-vocabulary work for the article they’ll read. Define words, create sentences, share out in the meeting.

B: Day 2: They will read the article. I read the first page to them, asked questions and then had them finish reading and annotating offline. We rejoined and discussed the words, the article, and some characteristics about the class.

C: Day 3. They’ll answer the questions. I give them class time for this. We are all on the platform muted with cameras off.

Other ideas: 

1. Provide a daily prompt or students to journal about. 

2. Provide them with a picture to describe, or a video.

3. Invite someone to your class for students to interview- I did this today with a class who read “La clase de confesiones” and “El escape.” I spent 10 minutes talking to them and they had good questions about the books, my life, and dreams. It was great! You can do this as well. Use your FB community!

4. Make ample time to describe the activity. Provide examples if possible. 

5. Model with students during screen share.

How am I structuring my online classes? 

1. Mood-meter check-in. I have students write in the Google chat (Google Meet) one word describing how they feel. I also use Profe Pistole mood-metered pictures. Students can readily access their mood. Click here for the emotion words with the sloth. Click here for the llama pictures.

2. Since everyone is watching television, I have them describe one series or show they watched using the past tense (level 1). I provide them with the sentence stem in the Google chat. You can use a PPT, but I am really trying to keep it simple.

3. I will introduce the assignment to them. I share my screen and read the directions. I assign students to ask me questions- this is helpful! 

4. I give them 15-20 minutes to do the assignment. I have them mute their mics and turn off their cameras. I do the same. The chat feature is open so I am responding to questions. 

5. We reconvene and I have a few of them share out. I usually call on people. It has been working thus far. 

This has been very breathable schedule and I am able to answer questions and give them space to work.   They don’t feel overwhelmed afterwards. 

What are some ways in which you are making this work for you? Let me know!

If you haven’t downloaded my free resource, get it here! Animated book trailer for “La clase de confesiones” with activities. You don’t need to have the book to do the activity. This resource will be free throughout April. Also, check out the COVID-19 WL thread on Facebook. There are tons of free resources!

Remote Learning Decoded: How To Stay Afloat When Going Remote (Webinar Series)!

Check out my store for good quality materials that  can enrich the remote learning curriculum 

Let’s keep in touch.