Friday, December 30, 2016

Soy Yo

At this year's most recent middle school dance, I asked the DJ to play this song. When it came on, the kids screamed and started flailing around. (As much or even more so than for the previous Whip/Nae Nae, if I might say with a fair amount of pride.) Seeing the kids dance and sing along in Spanish was one of my high points as a middle school teacher. 

Here are some resources I have used with this song:
  • Reading Activity (adapted from this article about Sarai, the girl in the video)
  • Lyrics Training activity using Soy Yo (to sing karaoke or do a listening activity)
  • Lyrics activity from Zachary Jones from his ebook, Cancionero 2015 - I use many of his activities (both free and purchased) and any of his ebooks have been well worth the money.
  • Speaking of Zachary Jones, he has a great series of interviews called ¿Cómo eres? None with little Sarai yet, but one can hope. I used these as a somewhat independent listening activity and students liked them so much that I added it as an option to our monthly homework options.
  • Another related song was Como soy by Manu Manzo, who does have a ¿Cómo eres? interview.
7th grade in particular has been a little obsessed with this song (I've caught kids singing it in the halls, and heard rumors that kids brought it up during some recent restorative circles in morning meetings.) I'm using some of that energy to kick off our 2nd trimester project about language & identity, connected with a skills unit on descriptions. More to come on that, hopefully.

Related resources bumping around in my files:
  • Eres by Café Tacvba is another song I've used to introduce or review the conjugation of ser. Not quite as catchy as this one, but the kids still mention "that creepy black and white song.") 
  • A few years ago (in my first dabblings in PBL) I had students find a song of their choice and use the lyrics to search for targeted grammatical structures. Here's my first attempt at that mini-project, which I may revisit.
Big Picture: Grammar & music

I'm still struggling to balance PBL and proficiency, especially when it comes to grammar & conjugation, but using music is one thing that has been consistent through my evolution as a teacher. Songs were what kept our heads above water during my early years of treading water in Detroit, as I gathered a collection of songs that drove my K-2 curriculum and used music (including the only alphabet song I can stomach) to engage some of my most challenging middle school classes. As I learn more about project based learning and how to let students learn by doing, music has been a great resource for experiencing verbs in their natural habitat. If a song is catchy enough the grammar structures will stick in students' heads, and if it is repetitive enough it can allow for some "DIY" grammar rules based on observations of repeated patterns in a song.

Finally, anything that makes students spontaneously yell things in Spanish I'll count as a success in the complicated, often-grumpy land of middle school language teaching.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Zines: ¿Por Qué Aprender Idiomas?

I haven't kept up with blogging this year. Even though my schedule is a lot more reasonable (I'm only teaching 5th-8th!) somehow there still isn't time for much other than just teaching. However, we just began our 2 week holiday break, and before jetting off to the Midwest I took some time today to gather some student zines to donate to a local zine library. That was a reminder of a project I've been meaning to share here - our zine project in September!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why educate? Why innovate?

What do you see as the purpose of education?  Why might innovation be crucial in education?

Asking myself why at the beginning of the school year feels pretty important. To begin the school year this year, our new administrative team asked us to share some #whyiteach moments. The why question has been an underlying thread in these first few weeks of school, as I establish routines and big-picture plans with my students. I'm asking students why, too - middle school students are starting the year by creating zines to answer the question "Why Learn Languages?" Before we can learn we need to know why we are doing this, and before I can teach I need to know why it is important.

There are so many reasons education is important, and why I've decided to make a career out if it. Today it's hard to ignore the reasons looming in the headlines and my newsfeed. It's easy to feel powerless in the face of the violence, hatred, and injustice both far away and uncomfortably close to home. At its worst, education can prop up and strengthen structures of injustice, but at its best it can dismantle them. Education is a way to help fix what's broken in the world, and to create a better future. It is not the only way to fight injustice and heal wounds, but for me personally education is the way I can be invested and involved in a better future. I have the next generation in my classroom, and the skills, ideas, and the abilities for empathy and critical thinking that they learn with me can help shape their future.

Innovation in education is a relatively new concept to me. As a foreign language teacher, my focus has been on proficiency and how to get students to use language authentically. This is my 3rd year at a project based school, and I've had to shift my mindset a bit. Innovation is a huge part of PBL. I think innovation is critical because it innovation empowers students. Education is my key to improve the future, and the key to successful education is students who are empowered to take control of their own learning. If students are engaged and involved and have a voice, they will learn and they will make amazing things. I feel so grateful to be working in an environment where innovation and student curiosity is valued and prioritized. I love passing by classrooms every day where students are excited and curious and can't wait to show me what they are making. In my own classes, one big success marker is if I see that light kindled in my students' eyes. I've seen that a few times this year, while students are making zines and preparing to share them with an authentic audience.

For me, the big question I'm still wrestling with is how to encourage innovation and authentic exploration without losing sight of proficiency - or rather, how to create situations for that innovation and exploration to happen when students are not yet at an adequate level of proficiency in Spanish. I am optimistic, especially working with 5th graders this year who I have had since 3rd grade - we can do more things in Spanish, so we can talk about more things in Spanish, so hopefully we can explore stuff and make stuff in Spanish. I'm hoping that this exploration of innovation can help me find ways to make that happen.

This is the first blog prompt for #IMMOOC, a professional book club I'm taking part in with George Couros' "The Innovator's Mindset." 

I've been doing a lot of exciting things so far this school year, and I'll try to share more of them here soon! I've been a lot more active on twitter recently, so feel free to follow me @kennedyspanish

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lunes de Lectura: El Día de los Niños

I've been buried in projects so haven't been sharing much here. Recently with my 7th and 8th graders I've been trying to fit in some skill-based mini-lessons and practice alongside some of our longer projects, so each week as a warm up we've been doing Lunes de lectura and Jueves de Juegos. (Well, for half of my classes. For the others it is Martes de Lectura / Viernes de Diversión - not quite as catchy.) I've been pulling readings from Newsela (they now have articles in Spanish, adjustable by lexile!) and shorter thematic reading exercises using Zachary Jones' Twiccionario.

For tomorrow we will be reading this short article about El Día de los Niños. I thought I'd share my modified and annotated version, along with comprehension questions.

(I'm going to introduce this with watching Irene, a fantastic short by Alejandro Hiraldo. I happened upon lots more resources from Aprendemos Juntos and definitely want to expand on this later!)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Proyecto: Mi Lotería Personal

We just started a project in 6th grade that has already been a lot of fun, using La Lotería Mexicana. I already knew I wanted to use it as a way to reinforce articles and the gender of nouns in a fun and hands on way, but while muddling through the PBL project design process and trying to connect that to the expensive curriculum that was just bought for me this year I realized this could be a good way to wrap up some of the curriculum objectives from Avancemos 1 into a project - specifically, Unit 1 objectives from Avancemos 1. After beginning this project, I already know I need to connect Lotería to more lessons and projects. It's been great to see the student engagement, from both my native speakers and others who have played this game with their families. (Here in San Diego, there's even a local brewery that has Lotería nights instead of Bingo nights.)

Here's our project so far. You can also see my project overview here:
  1. We played La Lotería in class using this bilingual student version: Bilingual Bingo / Lotería Bilingue. It's nice for my mixed level class because we can read the rhyme out loud, and anyone who can understand it (usually my native speakers) can call out the word in Spanish. (¡La luna! ¡El sol!)

  2. We looked at a selection of creative Lotería sets in class to glean examples of different types of words. Most of my students were sorting nouns by gender and by type of word (person, animal, etc.) but my native speakers were categorizing words by their stressed syllables. (We've been looking at sílabas tónicas in order to help with correct accents. It's the first time this year I've heard these kids whining that the work is too hard, so I think I've finally manged to find a task at their level!) Here are the Loterías we looked at - albeit selectively. Your use of these Loterías may depend on how comfortable you and your students are with the human body, alcohol use, and racial commentary.)

    1. A traditional set of Don Clemente Lotería cards from a local Mexican supermarket
    2. Lotería Clemente Jacques, 1930s (México)
    3. Lotería Clemente Jacques, 1960s  (México)
    4. Lotería de Posada (Arte de José Guadalupe Posada, 1852-1913) 
    5. Lotería Moderna de Teresa Villegas (This project was a great excuse to buy her gorgeous Loteria book.)
    6. Lotería los Compadres (Moderno de México)
    7. Lotería 50 nombres para la muerte (Erik de Luna, México)
    8. Lotería Huasteca (Art of the Huastec people, Alec Dempster & Arturo Castillo Tristan)
    9. Lotería Star Wars (Chepo Peña)
    10. Lotería de Fotografías de México (Jill Hartley)
  3. We'll also be reading this book, which is a sweet bilingual story. I would start the project with this book normally, but I ordered it right after beginning the project.

  4. We will be creating our own Lotería cards that share something about ourselves. Students will choose objects that represent something about themselves, and the "hints" on the back will be sentences about themselves, using the language skills we have been practicing. I've created some examples, like this card that features a baby teacher with her baby cat.

I can't wait to see what my students come up with! 

(Disclaimer: Links to Amazon products are provided via Amazon's Associates program. I receive some money if you end up buying these products through the ads on this page. I'm grateful for this opportunity through Amazon, but also through their Prime shipping which allowed me to come up with this project and pretty immediately get the books and games I needed  to start it right away with my students!)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Caprichos Modernos: A cross-curricular Spanish project

One of my resolutions this year was to be more intentional about work/life balance. (Spoiler alert: I resolve this every year.) Starting in January I began using the Tracking Time app to start tracking how much time I was spending on various tasks outside of actual teaching - lesson planning, after school meetings, parent and student emails, grading, updating our gradebook, updating our school website, interpreting IEPs, etc. I don't think I've necessarily spent any less time on school, but I've been able to see where my time is going. (I love getting nerdy with data, so the ability to sort and track data actually acts as a motivator to get things done. This is the only way I convince myself to exercise, too.)

With that said, I could tell you exactly what I've been doing other than updating this blog, and it's mostly been project planning. At my school we've been digging into Project Based Learning pretty intensively during our professional learning time. I already shared my quick translation project that I did with 7th and 8th grade. Recently we've just started another bigger project that I'm pretty excited about. It's a cross curricular advertising project that 7th grade students will be working on in English, History, Spanish, and Math classes (with a heavy dose of Art thrown in as well.) After examining and analyzing messages in Spanish and English advertising campaigns, students are working in marketing teams to create publicity about something they want to change in their community or society. In Spanish class, we are also examining messages expressed through art, with examples ranging from Goya's Caprichos criticizing the corruption and chaos of Spain in the late 1700's to a Tumblr created much more recently questioning the suspicious disappearance of 43 Mexican students in 2014. We'll have a public exhibition for parents and community members at the end of this month. I've already had so much fun looking at ads and art with my students, and can't wait to see what they come up with.

Since I've spent approximately 40 hours to date planning this project (thanks, nerdy app!) I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. I'm gradually adding more links and resources and tweaking the rubric as I go along, but this is where I'm at currently.

Please feel free to use any of this in your own classes! Since this is a new project, I would appreciate any feedback you can give. I've got two other big projects either in progress or about to start (in 8th and 6th grade) so maybe I can share those soon, too.

Proyecto: Caprichos Modernos (7º)

Paso 1: Anuncios en español

Paso 2: Mensajes por el arte

Paso 3 y 4: Mi Capricho 
This is my first time doing this particular project, but in during student teaching I used Goya in a cross-curricular unit where students also created their own modern versions. Here are some of those student Caprichos which I'll be showing as examples: