Sunday, December 6, 2009

Coffee Break Spanish

Coffee Break Spanish is a series of podcasts that provide dialogs with specific vocabulary and are read with a Spanish accent rather than a Latin American accent. They can be very beneficial while learning Spanish because it goes into detail about the entire dialog after it is read and even gives some alternative vocabulary that could be used. There is one podcast - Lesson 37 - that I find very useful because it deals with asking and giving directions which is what I am practicing with my own students. Instead of listening to the entire podcast with explanaiton I would like to make it a listenting activity where my student will listen only to the dialog and answer questions about what they hear. That way instead of listening to the explanation they can provide me with an explanation about what they understood. They can then use the dialog as a model when they have to create their own dialog about asking for and providing directions with a partner.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Voxopop is a global message board where you can add voice messages to ongoing discussions. After connecting with a classroom in a Spanish speaking country (see previous post) it would be great to communicate through speech and share thoughts on a completed project. The advantage is that students can leave their voice messages for each other and do not have to both be using the tool at the same time. This is advantageous because if I connected with a class from a Spanish speaking country we would not be able to be in front of the computer at the same time due to time zone differences.


I can really see the benefits to using ePals, a site that promotes world-wide connections and communication between students. What I found most useful was the ease in which to connect with other classrooms - you just click the continent/country where you would like to find a classroom and there are numerous postings from teachers who want to collaborate. I have wanted to get my students involved in a penpal/Epal relationship with another school, but haven't because I didn't know how to find a classroom or how to get started. In the postings it even says the age of the students involved and how many there are so you are sure to find a good match for your own classroom.
I also liked some of the ready-made projects offered by the site, especially "The Way We Are". The essential questions that the projects aims to answer include - how are we different from our ePal, how does the natural environment affect my ePal's life, and what effect does my ePal's culture have on his or her way of life. This goes hand in hand with my current classroom themes and is something I would like to use with my high school Spanish classes. The site promotes this specific project for elementary or middle school level, however I would like to modify the worksheets so that they are in Spanish and I would choose to collaborate with Spanish speaking students. Therefore this project would be at a level where my students could communicate with Spanish speakers using the target language. Additionally, learning about the culture and environment directly from a primary source would be exciting and motivating for students.

Check out the Epals website for great ideas on global communication!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Using Videos in the Classroom

Using videos in the classroom is a sure way to get students' attention. I found three videos and I posted the links in my blogroll. My favorite is the music video that teaches students how to conjugate Spanish -ar verbs in the present tense to a Justin Timberlake song. It would be a great video to show after teaching the new grammar point to help reinforce what was just learned.
The video about searching on Google is a great resource for students when they are assigned a project or need to do some research using the Internet. It has a lot of useful information about narrowing down your search or how to focus your search to certain websites. Many students are unaware of these features.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Using Flickr in a Classroom

Flickr is a great resource to bring in pictures for my students. In regards to culture, the possibilities are endless. If we are talking about a specific town or place I could search for pictures of that place. There are even pictures of foods, people and products from various locations. Showing real pictures makes a discussion in class more meaningful. Additionally I could share my personal photos from my travels without worrying about bringing in the physical pictures and having my students touch and bend them.

I could also use the pictures on Flickr to get my students talking and or writing. By using Bubblr, available at you are able to create comic strips using Flickr pictures. I created one that shows a skateboarder completing various tricks and the students could fill in what he is thinking using Spanish. This allows them to showcase some of their creativity. I would really like to take some pictures of myself - walking, falling, then the aftermath - and put the scenes into a comic strip using bubblr. The students would be amused to see me in the pictures and it would allow them to creatively use the grammar I am currently teaching - the preterite and the imperfect past tenses. To see the comic strip I created click on Andar en Patineta by Cwudzinski.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Potential for Microblogging in the Classroom

It seems like everyone is talking about Twitter lately, and it is not only for the actors of Hollywood. Many educators are starting to use this tool as a way to collaborate and offer real-time interaction between users. It can also serve as a forum to ask questions/get advice/receive directions/find support. For my own professional development it would be wise to find experts in the field of Spanish education to follow.
It also makes sense to introduce Twitter to students in a way that is beneficial to their learning. Many students may already be familiar with Twitter and they may even be following some of their famous idols. However it would be great to show them how to use this tool in an academic sense. There were some good ideas in the following article/powerpoint called "27 interesting ways to use Twitter in the Classroom." One that would work well in a foreign language classroom is the story starter - where I could start a story and my students could continue it with a tweet. This provides even quiter students with a way to be heard. Another way to incorporate Twitter would be to post what is going on in the classroom and provide parents with another mode of communication with me. It would be a great way to make a quick annoucement to both parents and students.
Overall Twitter can serve as a way to make writing more enjoyable and can promote literacy and editing skills at the same time. However one article, "Can we use Twitter for Educational Activities?" points out some flaws of Twitter in the classroom. The constant tweets can be a distraction for some students and having only 140 character tweets may lead to bad grammar skills. As a teacher you must also be aware of the privacy of the students and Twitter spam.
Right now I do not think I am experienced enough using Twitter to introduce it into my classroom program. However I do believe it could help me personally in my own development by following other Spanish teachers, finding useful websites through them, and asking questions/seeking advice about the best ways to teach topics from people more experienced than myself.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Madrid Promotional Videos

While we already know the result of where the 2016 Olympics will be, you can still see the promotional videos for Madrid, Spain. I like them because they show parts of Madrid and use some basic Spanish. I showed two of them in my Spanish 2 class. Before watching we were able to talk about the process of picking a city and the importance of hosting the Olympics. Then we watched a video which showed parts of the city and another in which people spoke in the past tense: I sang, I lived, I applauded, etc. I covered up the subtitles and had my students try to understand what was being said. The video was perfect because it combined current events with the preterit tense, which I was already reviewing with my classes.

Click here to see the post with the promotional videos

¿Ganará Madrid 2016? ¡Vénte pa' Madrid! is the post available on the blog, Vamanos

Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning with Computers

This is a blog designed for language teachers which I joined. Its a great resource to see what other teachers from all over the world are doing and has links to other helpful websites. I have already found some ideas for speaking activities that I can use in my classroom!

Click here to check it out!

Connectivism: The Learner of Today

Technology has forever changed how and what people are learning. The classroom of 25 years ago was much different than today. Today's classroom may even be different than that of a classroom only one year ago. Therefore the learner must also change. In my opinion the learner of today must be like a sponge with the ability to soak up new information throughout his or her lifetime. People are no longer able to acquire all of the information they will need for their jobs throughout life. George Siemens wrote, "Learning is a continual process." Siemens goes on to explain that the process of learning is changing. Because of the complex environments that we live in and the social networks we are linked to, learning "is not just limited to occur exclusively inside the individual, but it also exists outside of the individual." If we think of water as knowledge, it exists outside of the sponge, and when added to the sponge, or in this case the learner, it adds to what is already known. This theory is called Connectivism. The premise of Connectivism is that we can gain knowledge through networking with others as well as organizing our information clearly in our internal neural network - again think of the connections in a sponge. Siemens goes on to say that what we know currently is important but not as important as "our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow." Keeping this in mind, the sponge, the learners of today, must be able to filter through all of the information they are bombarded with through their networks and distinguish between what is important and what is unimportant.
Click here to read more about George Siemens' theory of Connectivism

Click here to see George Siemens talk about the Changing Nature of Knowledge

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Reaction to "A Vision of K-12 Students Today"

This video really brings to attention the gap between teacher's knowledge of technology and children's knowledge of technology. Our students today are growing up with it and learning quickly while many teachers are comfortable with the way they have always done things and do not want to take the time to try new things. Even with my own teaching I do not incorporate technology on a regular basis. If we, as teachers, really want to instruct our students we need to use new methods that will not only engage them in that moment but also really be of use to them in the future.

Also the students in the video held up signs saying they want to learn how to think and analyze. Unfortunately many students shut down when asked to think because they are so accustomed to just retelling memorized information back to the teacher. As teachers we need to find methods of getting students to think without them knowing it. Incorporating technology and things like blogs is an excellent idea to get their attention and encourage them to want to learn more.

However one thing I did not like about the video was the comparison of the United States' education to the education of China. Incorporating more technology into our curriculum is an excellent start to us catching up to China's progress but it is in no way the answer to our problems. I have only been teaching four years but from what I have seen, one of the greatest obstacles in our education system is the negative attitudes toward education where the students and/or parents do not see the value of education. A numerous amount of my own students do not understand why they have to take a foreign language in high school and only complete the minimum requirements. These types of attitudes start at home and until we have an entire shift in attitude about education, all the money and technology will still not let us compete at the same level as China.

Click here to see A vision of K-12 Students Today

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blog Post #2 - Safe Blogging

It is important to protect the safety of the students whenever using the internet. Between the book and the link I feel they have really covered the main safety concerns so I'm sorry if I sound a little repetitive, but here is my list of things to remember about safe blogging:
1) Do not share student's last name/address/pictures/other personal information
2) Obtain administrator and parent approval before using online sites
3) Always double check links beforehand to ensure students will be led to the correct sites
4) Tell students not to believe everything they read, show how to research blog author, find trustworthy sites to use with children.
5) As the teacher, check all comments before they can be posted and limit who can look at and respond to the blog.
6) If students are working on the blog at school, be sure to monitor what they are doing while on the computer.

Blog Post #1 - Ways I can use a Blog

1. Being a foreign language teacher it seems the best way to use a blog would be to link to a Spanish speaking classroom in a Spanish speaking country. It would be excellent for students to post a response to a question or topic, like describe your typical school day, favorite food, etc. My students would not only could post their response in Spanish (could be graded writing assignment) but also read the responses from the Spanish speaking students, (reading assignment). I could require them to comment on a certain number of Spanish students' entries. My students would be using the language in a real, communicative way and comparing their typical school day, or whatever the topic would be with that of a Spanish speaker. This would actually address several NYS learning standards. As a blogger beginner this seems difficult to coordinate so to start I could connect with another Spanish teacher's class from the Western New York area that I know. Our students could communicate with each other in much the same way. It would be a good learning experience.
2. While most of my students have facebook or myspace using this type of blog may be difficult for some. With that in mind I would like to start off with the students just reading my blog or just commenting. I could post personal journal entries in Spanish and have students read them and translate them for homework or respond to them in Spanish. I also liked the idea the book had about providing online readings and having students read and react to them. In larger classes it is sometimes difficult to provide enough time for every student to express thier own ideas and this would allow all students the opportunity to share. I would also love to have students discuss what they thought about activities we did during class.
3. Personally, blogs seem like great resources to find effective teaching activities, strategies, and games to use in the classroom. Not only will the ideas be posted but also comments from other teachers about how useful they were or helpful hints on how to better implement the strategy. In this case I don't think I would have my own blog about this but rather search out others' blogs to educate myself.