Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Recently we had a PD day in which we were assigned to a room with our colleagues. My particular room assignment was facilitated by our principal. He told us a story of a professor who was trying to kill everyone off, but had a serum that would save himself. He kept it locked in a box (at the front of the room) and had left clues in the room about how to open the three locks. Our job was to find these clues, open the locks so that we could "breakout" of the room. We had 45 minutes and could use anything at our disposal, including electronic devices.

That was my first encounter with BreakoutEDU. The more I reflected on it, the more I thought I could recreate this in my language classroom. To make it even more interesting and challenging, I could have TWO boxes with different clues, thus two different teams in the same room trying to find and open different boxes, not knowing if the clue they found was really intended for their box or the other box. mooohahaha

We had just finished reading ¡Viva el toro! in Spanish III so this would be great. There was so much information about bullfighting as well as other cultural tidbits we explore at various degrees of intensity throughout the book. Knowing that the students had to use different skills to solve the problem than it usually took to have a discussion in class, this was about to get real interesting! Some of the locks were numbers; others were words. I really thought box 2 was more difficult.

Out of the 3 groups, only one group was able to breakout. It was interesting to watch the students work in this different capacity. Another group wanted to keep trying to figure out the clues, just to open the box. The challenge was greater than the prize for them.

I learned a lot about myself as well. As a teacher, I really want to see my students succeed and feel success along the journey. It was really hard to not give them free hints along the way. I had to wait for them to turn in one of their two hint cards. Sometimes they got fixated on an object that had nothing to do with the clue or be so close to solving it, but just couldn't get it, even when it starred them in the face. Taking a back seat is really really hard for me. I wanted to push them in the right direction and guide their journey, rather than let them discover and explore. It's too bad our schedule is dictated by minutes and hours. It's a necessary evil, however.

These were the two boxes, the combination, and the clues to find the correct combinations to unlock the box. It was a great day in class and we all learned.
Box 1
Lock: Clue:
TOROS “seven arrive, but only one leaves” <black light written on bullfight picture on bulletin board
41001 address to the bullfight arena
Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 8.27.48 AM.png

Box 2
Lock: Clue:
ARTE- “The clue is in the view, Julio.” <black light written on bullfight picture on bulletin board
63085 km > miles river basin

Copy of the letter that the "secuestradora" sent to Julio. Some letters are changed to purple, which spell out a link to another clue.


Tenemos tu novia, Ana.
Todo está bien, pero necesitamos dinero.
Nos reunimos en Sevilla a la Plaza de toros a las dos de la tarde.
El paseíllo revela dónde está tu querida.
Cuando nos reunimos, podrán tomarla y estar con ella nuevamente.
La secuestradora

The Pulsera Project

A few years ago I heard about the Pulsera Project, a free-trade organization that helps provide scholarships and jobs for people of Nicaragua. After a presentation on how to make your classroom a global classroom during an PD day, a teacher asked if I would partner in this project. Absolutely!

We solicited administrative support and approval and were able to move forward with the project. After watching a couple videos from the students were very excited to help the people of the Nicaraguan village. We had the students create a commercial for the pulsera sales during conferences, lunch, and before a school music concert. We showed the commercial repeatedly during lunch to get kids excited about them, and held early sales just to the students of the two classes so that they could show their pulseras to friends. Students signed up via a signupgenius to sell the pulseras. They sold over $1000 worth of pulseras.

Finally, we had learning stations that combined all 3 sections of classes, over 50 students, to experience what life may be like for Nicaraguans. These stations included games, music, literature, food, and make your own pulsera. A final reflection piece ended the project and students commented on what they had learned. Wow, so exciting to see their minds and hearts opened to other people and cultures.


Nope, not the cereal; it's the review game.

I got this game from somewhere I don't remember over 15 years ago. I thought it would be a good to pull it out again. This can be done as a whole class with 2-4 teams, but I chose to have the students work individually, competing against each other.

They were given a copy of the game board, an individual marker board, and a marker. Their grouping was according to their marker - each group had one of each color. When they won a question, they colored in the spot on the game board. The goal is to fill in areas top to bottom, strategically blocking opponents and circumnavigating their partner's blocks. If you have a particularly competitive group, this can get a little crazy.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tape Stories

This is another reading strategy that I have used a few times in the past. A few years ago I was out garage saling in the spring and found a big box of old register tape for less than a dollar. At the time I had a daughter who loved writing stories. I thought this would be a great outlet for her to write a long of a story as she wanted to. Then I realize, hey this would be a great idea for my students in class to write stories!

We just got done reading Chapter 7 of ¡Viva el toro! They acted it out, answered lots of circling questions, among other activities. Today, with a partner, each group was identified as a writer or a drawer. As a group, they decided what to write in their summary. The writer wrote the words on the register tape and the drawer drew what was written.

In the past, I have used this in a variety of ways: they have to include x number of structures, sentences, feet of paper, etc. Sometimes it's a competition to see who can use the most paper. This usually results in students writing larger than normal with bigger spacing, however. With this activity this week we just showed off how long our chapter summaries were.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Literature Circles

We have been working on reading strategies in Spanish III, using an embedded reading and an Anticipation Guide and citing evidence from the text to support the statements. For the final reading, the students did an activity called Lit Circles. This goes back to the days of cooperative learning, but also gives a purpose for their reading.

The students had been through the first 2 versions of the embedded reading text and we had done lots of circling of the information with it. They were divided into 4 groups according to what they felt were their strongest skills or learning styles: Director, Dibujante, Diccionario, Resumen (sorry I couldn't get another D word in there lol). All the directores were in one group; all the dibujantes were in another group, etc. As they read through the final version, they used the filter of their job to read. The directors were the strongest students who felt like they really had a grasp on the chapter. The dibujantes did a pictorial summary of what was happening in the chapter. They diccionarios understood every word of the chapter, looking up any vocabulary or structures they didn't know or were unsure of. The resumenes were similar to the Dibujantes, but did a written summary of the chapter.

After doing a "cold read" of the full chapter with their group members, one person from each was reassigned to a new group so that there was only director, one dibujante, one diccionario, and one resumen in each group. They then read through it again, collaborating with their new partners. Moohaha, I just snuck in another repetition! As a whole group, I added yet additional reps by doing a Q/A a la Carol Gaab style.