Category Archives: Classroom

Picture This: Social media to improve Interpersonal Communication in the World Language Classroom


I have been using Instagram as a fun social app for a while now. And of course as soon as I could figure it out, I started brainstorming how I could use it in my world language classroom. Instagram is a social app for photos, where you post post pictures of which you and your friends can leave comments, tag friends, and hashtag as a certain subject.
Here’s a picture I posted from the recent ACTFL conference in Denver. There’s a few things you’ll see:

At the top lists my username, lelises, and the location I marked us in.

People who “like the picture” are next to the heart.

I have tagged one friend with the @ sign.

My comment, next to username lelises shows what I wrote about my own photo, “No taxi necessary.”

And I have classified the subject of the photo with a hashtag, #actfl.

My friend tagged in the photo commented.

Here’s a quick tutorial on the basics:

How can your students use this?

1. Taboo/10,000 Pyramid
After teaching vocabulary, have students post pictures up of certain items that you studied. The pictures can be difficult to guess, so you have them write a description in the target language underneath describing the object. If nobody guesses you can leave another clue. This can be done by the teacher or by the students. Here’s an example: (Please note, I used English here simply as an example.) Read the rest of this entry

Authentic Texts Part Deux: the Hows


Many teachers struggle with ways to expose novice learners to authentic texts.  If you scaffold appropriately, novice learners can handle a variety of materials.  It’s certainly easier to use anything that has audio or visual in addition to written text.  Here are simple steps to scaffolding an authentic text:

In the context of a larger unit on travel, I had my students interpreting the safety procedures on a plane through videos, online brochures and websites.  They watched several videos.  Here is one example.  It is a good choice for novice learners because of its familiarity and cognates.

1. Preview the text: Before students learn any new vocabulary, allow them to watch the video a few times, trying to see if they can identify any words or phrases.  Tell them to watch it in a relaxed manner.  I usually use a calm voice, and say, “Just listen.  You don’t need to understand every word.  Focus on what you can understand, not the words that you can’t understand.  Just listen.”  During the second viewing, as a formative assessment, they can write down the words they hear that they are familiar with, and new words they can infer based on the context.  At the end of each viewing, I ask them to hold up a hand low in front of them using their fingers as a way to represent their comprehension, 5 being the highest.  They mark this down on the same paper.  I can collect the papers and see what does not need to be retaught or we can make a class list off all the words we already know as an anchor activity. Read the rest of this entry

Don’t Beat ’em, Join ’em!: Cellphones Allowed!


Ian Jukescommitted me” a while ago.  We live in a time of exponential change, and education serves our students only if it prepares them to live in the world as productive citizens.  When we think of the real world, we don’t think of an isolated classroom containing barriers with no access to technology, or where its use is prohibited. Unfortunately, many schools are continuing to educate students in this manner.  Often, teachers are burdened with narrowing technology budgets and limited resources.  Most students have access to cell phones, which currently act a lot more like computers than phones. How can we see them as helpful to our classes rather than hindrances?

Take advantage of the fact that you have 10 or more “computers” in your classroom available for use at any moment, no training required!!

Here are are some useful and meaningful ways to use cellphones in the world language classroom:

1.     GoogleVoice: Save time and go green!  As an oral assessment, have students leave you a message by calling your GoogleVoicemail in class responding to a  prompt. Then, text or email back your feedback and score. Read the rest of this entry

Make classwork homework! (and make class time more effective)


How to use class time more effectively is something I always ponder.  I try to find new ways to compact information and give bursts of instruction in order to make the face time with our students more productive.  Class time is precious, so we have to ask, “What is it important for students to complete in class, and which are the things they can reasonably complete at home?” was my inspiration for this blog.

Can a lecture or direct instruction be done at home, and the practice and application be done in class?  Why not?  Doesn’t it make more sense to use the class time more effectively?  In math class, this would look like a video lecture at home, and practice problems done in class where the teacher is available to help. 

But what would this look like for the foreign language class?  If you are covering a grammar point, have the students watch a video, powerepoint or prezi at home. You can differentiate instruction this way because students can watch it on their own time, without distractions, as quickly or slowly as they would like, using a template or a self-generated graphic organizer.  You can even have them post on a discussion board asking questions, giving answers and sharing thoughts that would facilitate the learning. Students that were more advanced could learn by teaching others, and more reluctant learners would be more willing to participate in a less stressful and intimidating setting.  By flipping the work, class time could be devoted to what is most important and what should actually be assessed, the students using the language.

Here’s an example: I assigned these videos for homework with an accompanying blog discussion or a notes template or graphic organizer:

The next day, I provided cut up sentences as the activation activity, in which students had to match the verb ending with the stem but also have the sentence make sense. (This can be done as a whole class activity with colored paper in fron tof the class, or at desks in small groups.) 

The processing activity was a speaking activity in which they asked each other questions.  What would you do if you were…..???  They were given the prompts ahead of time to read and formulate answers.  Then they were each assigned one question to ask each student.  In a speed dating style activity, they asked and answered a question.

As a closing activity, they could, in groups of four, tell their classmates what they learned about other students in these hypothetical scenarios. Or this could be the start of a writing assignment, and the closing could be the beginning of a brainstorm to prepare.

Technology in the Classroom


Any teacher that can be replaced by technology deserves to be!!

Technology in the classroom on Prezi


 This was a presentation that my co-worker Liliana Lopez and I gave to the supervisors in our district about how teachers can use technology in their classroom


The Fun Factor!


Learning can and should be fun! As educators, we need to first and foremost inspire students to become life-long learners.

“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”        -Chinese Proverb

So what’s wrong with making learning fun? Not to say, that it shouldn’t be challenging and fulfilling, but why not have fun??!  Fun is universal.  If it is fun, students will want to do what is needed and what is often more difficult.

Our job as educators is to motivate students.  As world language teachers, that shows itself in the form of the following:

  • authentic activities and assessments
  • student choice
  • catering towards student interests
  • relevant topics and resources
  • ability to reach all students
  • fun!
Fun does not necessarily have to be a competitive game, but activities that make students smile.  How can we make our classrooms more fun?
Here are some of my own examples:
  • Use manipulatives instead of worksheets:  When teaching a new verb form, cut the stem and the ending into two parts and add subjects and objects to make complete sentences.  Students can put together sentences in front of the class as a demonstration or in small groups at their seats.
  • Allow for collaboration: Learning is best when it is a social process.  As a processing activity with new concepts, I have students rotate in stations, where the use verbal or written skills to put their learning into practice with other students.
  • Sing and dance: Musical and kinesthetic learners appreciate this the most, but it is fun for everyone.  Use the private sector as an example.  How many commercials use jingles that we cannot get out of our heads??!
  • Focus on topics that students are interested in:  When they have a personal connection to the material, it will not only be fun, but more meaningful as well.  Learning must take place within a context, and adjusting instruction to tie to student interests will help do so.
  • Use cell phones in the classroom: Cellphones aren’t just phones anymore, they are the world at our fingertips.  And students love to use them!  With Polleverywhere, Voki and Google Voice, interpersonal and presentational speaking and writing can happen in the classroom everyday in an engaging and fun way.
  • Surprise your students:  Students need routine.  Establish routine in your procedures, but mix up your activities, projects and assessments.  I try and continually add a new activity to my “bag of tricks” at least once a marking period.  The true reward is when you hear, “That was so fun!!  Can we do that everyday??”  Of course not, but when you intermittently splice in their favorite activities, they look forward to class and wonder what they will be doing each day.
  • Put your and their pictures in PowerPoints or Prezis that introduce new vocabulary: When I did a unit on technology, I made a conversation between myself and another teacher on a presentation by using our pictures.  Then the last few interactive slides, I surprised students with pictures of themselves “talking”.
  • Laugh with your students, and don’t take anything too seriously: A classroom can be a place of discipline, organization, challenge, diligence and fun!  On this particular day, both my students and I laughed so hard, we cried!